Whiplash reforms ‘require’ debate and coordination

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Kennedys and First4Lawyers have welcomed the delay to the implementation of the small claims limit increases and an online platform for managing road traffic accident and personal injury claims, but warned that closer coordination between whiplash reforms and further debate are required before the government’s ‘compensation culture’ crackdown should be realised.

The small claims limit increases, from £1,000 to £2,000 for personal injury and to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims, and an online platform for managing them have been delayed until April 2020, after the Justice Select Committee raised concerns that they would impede access to justice.

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, called the delay “the latest twist in what has increasingly become a farcical process”.

He said that while First4Lawyers welcomes the extensive user testing of the platform that can be undertaken thanks to the delay, “we cannot ignore the language of the response which very much suggests the proposed reforms are now considered by the government to be a done deal. Will there be any meaningful debate held in the House of Commons now?”

Anwar added: “The government can say they are ‘acutely aware that the proposed approach will fundamentally transform how whiplash claims are handled and that any concerns around access to justice have to be addressed promptly’ to soothe their conscience, but they are continually and wilfully ignoring the evidence about whiplash claims which will have dire consequences for innocent injury victims.”

Deborah Newberry, head of corporate and public affairs at Kennedys, also welcomed the delay, saying: “We are pleased to see that the government intends to implement extensive user testing to ensure that the online platform is fit for purpose to accommodate an increase to the small claims limit for personal injury claims. It is absolutely right that the implementation is done properly—and as part of a package of reforms—rather than quickly and on a piecemeal basis.”

Newberry called for closer coordination between the different parts of the whiplash reform package. Secondary legislation will introduce the small claims limit increases, but it’s the Civil Liability Bill that will cap damages for whiplash claims and ban settlements struck without medical evidence, as well as fundamentally reform the personal injury discount rate.

Newberry said: “As it now seems likely that the Civil Liability Bill will pass later in the year than previously anticipated, the most sensible approach will be to ensure that the related measures are coordinated. It would also seem logical to ensure that the Ministry of Justice has before it the evidence submitted for its post-implementation review of Part 2 of the LASPO Act, to help provide further context to the current reform measures.”

“Collectively, one of the most important aspects to this is providing certainty to all interested parties—especially those compensators who will need to make operational changes to their claims handling processes to accommodate the changes. Anything that helps to provide more certainty to this area of the sector is welcome news at this point.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk