The Civil Liability Bill has emerged from the House of Commons unscathed after the government defeated Labour attempts to restrict a rise in the upper limit to the small claims track.
The amendment proposed linking any rise in the small claims limit for whiplash injuries to inflation, which would have resulted in maximums much lower than the £5,000 currently being pursued.
The Civil Liability Bill proposes to cap damages for whiplash claims and ban settlements struck without medical evidence, as well as change how the personal injury discount rate is set.
Separate secondary legislation, which cannot be directly amended by MPs, will raise the small claims limit, from £1,000 to £2,000 for personal injury and to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims.
The Justice Select Committee argued earlier this year that the small claims limit rises would impede access to justice, prompting the government to delay their introduction until 2020.
Speaking in the House of Commons as MPs attempted to use the Civil Liability Bill to restrict the small claims limit rises, Ellie Reeves, Labour MP for Lewisham West & Penge, said: “The [government’s] narrative of wanting to clamp down on fraudulent claims has long worn thin … in 2017, only 0.22% of all motor claims were proven to be fraudulent.”
“The impact on access to justice that this bill will have will be substantial—350,000 injured people without the free legal cover they currently are able to access. That is what will be the true cost of implementing the government’s package of measures.”
Ellie warned that the changes to the small claims limits would “would mean thousands of injured people could fall out of scope for free legal advice and representation and could be potentially denied justice.”
Reacting to the defeat, Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: “Contrary to what ministers claim, the government has made it clear that it doesn’t care about injured people, no matter how devastating the injuries.”
Dixon continued: “100% redress is the cornerstone of the justice system for people who fall victim to negligence. The government has paid lip service to the principle of full compensation throughout this debate but has consistently failed to deliver. It does not care about the repercussions for real people, or it would have listened to the evidence.”
“It has been utterly determined to make these reforms happen since being seduced by insurance industry rhetoric. Genuine injured people at either end of the scale have been vilified for the sake of saving a supposed £35 on each premium.”
“Hard-working, genuine motorists whom ministers and insurers claim to represent will find their compulsory insurance cover will not be sufficient when they need it.”
Writing earlier this month, Jonathan Guy, chief claims officer at First Central Group, warned that insurers that do not pass on savings from the Civil Liability Bill to consumers will find themselves uncompetitive and at risk of losing their market share.