Ministry of Justice ditches plans for further whiplash reform

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The government has dropped plans for further whiplash reform—to the surprise of personal injury lawyers and trade groups.

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) response to part two of its Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury Claims Process consultation, which closed five years ago, revealed that it does not intend to proceed with further reforms to whiplash claims. 

Part two of the government’s whiplash reform programme was much wider in scope that part one, which focused on the small claims limit for personal injury claims and a fixed compensation tariff for road traffic accident cases. Those changes came into effect in May 2021 and paved the way for the launch of the Official Injury Claim portal. 

The government used this consultation to consider fraud and claims cost issues, but has decided to let the market deal with them.

Neil McKinley, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), explained: “The proposals included consequences for injured people who wait to bring their claims or wait to seek medical help, even though there are often legitimate reasons for why they would delay. Sometimes the extent of the injury needs time to unfold, or the injured person might initially try to ‘brave it out’ before seeking treatment.”

Several proposals in section two of the consultation were also “in reaction to behaviours which are perceived to be indicative of fraud”. McKinley said: “They were disproportionate and unfair to claimants, the vast majority of whom are genuinely injured people.”

McKinley added: “The suggestion that recoverability of disbursements should be restricted was particularly heavy-handed, and would only serve to put undue financial drains on people who are representing themselves in the new system. It is only sensible that these measures have been dropped.” 

Commenting on the outcome, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said: “A sector so used to often damaging upheaval will be giving a sigh of relief that the government has decided against any further changes.”

He added: “Quite why this response took five years to emerge is anyone’s guess, though the serious challenges officials are currently experiencing with the operation of the new claims portal may go some way to explaining the delay.”

“Rightly, ministers are now looking to the wider industry to keep its own respective houses in order, and we look forward to further work with colleagues on issues such as rehabilitation, alternative dispute resolution and credit hire.”

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, commented: “While this response has been a long time coming, we welcome the fact that the government has finally seen sense and decided against further reform.”

“It would be madness to force any more change upon a sector still dealing with the fallout from the Official Injury Claims portal, which has been blighted by problems since its launch in May. While the government’s intention was to eliminate the need for lawyers, data shows it has had quite the opposite effect with around 90% of people still seeking legal assistance before bringing a claim.”

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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