Public backs reform to whiplash compensation, ABI claims

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Most people back plans to overhaul the personal injury compensation system, with nearly nine in 10 thinking that legal costs in the current system are too high, according to a survey commissioned by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The ABI commissioned the survey as MPs prepare to debate the Civil Liability Bill that will reform personal injury compensation for low-value road accident claims.

Key findings from the survey conducted by Consumer Intelligence highlighted that:

  • 87% felt that legal costs were too high
  • Two-thirds of respondents feel positive about the proposals to simplify personal injury compensation, including setting up an online process to make a low value claim
  • 71% would be comfortable about making a claim online, rather than seeking legal representation
  • A simple claims process was cited as the most important factor when making a low value personal injury claim by 37%. Ability to claim back legal costs was the least important—ranked first by 7%
  • Two-thirds surveyed cited a compensation culture environment as the main factor behind the trend of rising motor personal injury claims, despite a fall in the number of road accidents since 2005. This was followed by the activities of claimant lawyers (59%) and claims management companies (58%)

The government’s whiplash reform package—made up of the Civil Liability Bill and secondary legislation—will increase the small claims track limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for road accident personal injury claims, introduce a tariff of fixed compensation for pain and suffering for whiplash claims, and develop an online process to register a claim.

Leaders of insurance companies representing 93% of the motor insurance market underwritten by ABI members have publicly committed to passing on cost benefits to customers if the reforms are implemented in full.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “This survey highlights significant public support for the government’s plans to reform the personal injury compensation system. There is overwhelming recognition that legal costs are too high and need to be reduced. Most people recognise the benefits of a simple, streamlined system for dealing with low value personal injury claims, that preserves access to justice, and would be confident to use it.”

“Reforms in the Civil Liability Bill will mean a fairer system for claimants, motorists and compensators. This is why the bill’s provisions must be implemented in full, and not watered down.”

The results from the ABI-commissioned survey are at odds with marketing collective First4Lawyers, whose findings in June revealed that four in five motorists have no confidence that their insurer will cut premiums after whiplash reform.

A similar number would not know what to do if the reforms forced them to pursue a personal injury claim on their own.

The survey by YouGov found that consumers would rather retain the current levels of compensation for the victims of another driver’s negligence than see their insurance premiums go down.

The survey of 2,080 people formed part of the First4Lawyers campaign, called Repair The Right Body, urging members of the public to tell their MPs that the government’s plans to reform personal injury claims are wrong to prioritise repairing cars over repairing people.

In July, First4Lawyers managing director Qamar Anwar said: “It’s not over until the fat lady sings, as they say—a performance that is now scheduled for 2020. The upside to the delay is that it has also bought us time, to continue to urge MPs to listen, to collect and present irrefutable data, to raise our voices to be louder and more insistent than those of the insurance industry. We stand firm by what we believe, and in playing our part to protect those with no voice who will undoubtedly be affected. We urge you to join us in doing the same.”

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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