Whiplash reforms legislation confirms 31 May launch

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Legislation enacting whiplash reforms will come into force on 31 May, paving the way for the launch of the small claims portal.

The long-awaited whiplash reforms and portal were delayed in January for a fourth time.

The whiplash reforms and portal—or Part 1 of the Civil Liability Act 2018 and the associated increase to the small claims track limit for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims—were originally supposed to be implemented last year, but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) delayed their introduction several times, most notably due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of particular note is that the new civil procedure rules, published by the government yesterday, made it clear that there will be no increase in the small claims limit in any claims other than road traffic accident cases, according to law firm Thompsons Solicitors. 

This means that the threat to increase the small claims limit in employers’ liability and public liability claims to £2,000, first mooted in 2012, has been withdrawn. The small claims limit in all non-road traffic accident cases will now stay at £1,000.

Gerard Stilliard, head of personal injury at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “When life is so difficult for so many people right now, we’re glad that the government has seen sense and decided not to introduce change that would have unfairly penalised workers injured through no fault of their own.”

“Rules to enact changes to the handling and costs in road traffic accidents, now due to come into force on 31 May 2021, were devised to tackle the so-called ‘whiplash culture’. It is good to see that both the insurers and now the government have recognised there was no justifiable reason to extend any small claim increase to workplace and public liability claims.”

Qamar Anwar, managing director at First4Lawyers, agrees that it is “encouraging to see that non-road traffic accident claims will remain at £1,000” and “that the small claims limit for children and protected parties has been removed entirely”.

Graham Pulford, chief executive officer of handl Group, which provides a variety of claims-related services to both the claimant and defendant sides, said of the progress made on whiplash reforms: “Five years after the government first announced its intention to reform whiplash claims, we are now at the business end of that action.”

“As we enter the final lap before the launch of the portal in May I am confident that handl Group companies are ready to service customers from day one with reforms-ready service solutions.”

“The launch of the portal will inevitably throw up teething issues so we urge the MoJ and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) to remain open to making further changes to processes if those changes improve the consumer experience.”

‘Every release of information brings greater clarity’

Looking ahead to the future of whiplash reforms, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said: “We must all work together to make sure the portal succeeds. That includes making rapid changes if the consumer experience of the new system proves a challenging one, not just at launch date but also beyond it. Cooperation between all sides will be a vital part of this process.”

Ian Davies, who leads the motor team at law firm Kennedys, said: “Make no mistakethese are seismic changes to low value road traffic accident claims in England and Wales. The market is now set for a frantic three months of development to ensure systems are in place to deal with the claims from 31 May under the new regime.”

“Overall the rules and process seem to hold up. It’s clear that efforts have been made to provide a logical process with minimal steps. Yet questions inevitably remainhow will an overlap of tariff figures with common law damages be dealt with?”

“It is inevitable that there will be grey areas and points of friction dictated by claimant and defendant behaviours which will ultimately require resolution by the courts over the coming years.”

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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