The Government is apparently concerned about the large number of “whiplash” claims and the associated costs and about the impact of legal costs on motor insurance premiums. The 2015 Government consulted on what it referred to as “a package of measures to crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent soft tissue injury (‘whiplash’) claims stemming from road traffic accidents” (RTAs).
The Government’s planned solution to this perceived danger is the Civil Liability Bill which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, having been roundly criticised by the House of Commons’ cross-party Justice Select Committee which closely examined the proposals.
If this Bill becomes law, the small claims court limit for personal injury claims will make a huge leap from £1000.00 to £5000.00 in road traffic claims and to £2,000.00 in all other types of claims.
As legal costs cannot be claimed by a winning party in the small claims track, many thousands of injured people will have no choice but to bring their own claims against insurance companies who will still be able to pay for solicitors. The reality is, of course, that many won’t try to do so and genuinely injured people, through no fault of their own, will have little or no redress from the legal system. This is an affront both to the principles of natural justice, and the injured victims’ access to justice, which has always been one of the pillars of our democracy.
Another part of proposals concern will introduce fixed tariffs for soft-tissue injuries caused by road traffic claims. For example, those suffering back and neck injuries that last up to 12 months would see the amount of compensation they are entitled to reduced by up to £1,850. In some cases accident victims will lose out on almost 87% of the compensation they are entitled to today. We will be publishing further blogs giving real life case studies, to show how damages will be significantly reduced for injured people if this Bill becomes law.
The Government’s proposals appear to have been based on erroneous and questionable statistics. Examples of the myths surrounding personal injury claims are as follows:
Myth 1: Lawyers and claims companies are encouraging people to claim
Truth: A survey by Aviva in 2014 indicated that 55% of drivers who made an injury claim went through their insurers. Only 9% went through a claims company.
Also, the “No Win No Fee” system means that it makes no sense for solicitors to take on claims that are unlikely to succeed and that insurers will fight. That’s why 95% of cases like this are won.
Myth 2: It is personal injury claims that are driving up the cost of motor insurance
Truth: The insurance industry have back-tracked on this claim now saying it is a combination of rising insurance premium tax, increases in the cost of repairing vehicles and an increase in uninsured drivers that are the causes of rising insurance. But they still want the Government to pass new laws which will prejudice the injured with grossly unfair reforms. Whiplash claims have fallen by 10% in the last year.
Myth 3: People are putting in false claims because it’s easy to win cases
Truth: The insurance industry’s own figures show that less than 1% of claims are found to be fraudulent. And that includes cases that they think are fraudulent but haven’t been proved as such by a court, so the figure is actually likely to be lower. So over 99% of claims are actually genuine!
Myth 4: It’s good for society if claims like this are reduced
Truth: It’s not good on several levels. If people are injured and decide not to claim because it’s too difficult or not worth it, then the cost of treating them will fall on the NHS and the cost of accident-related benefits on the government and ultimately on the taxpayer. If there is a claim under the present law these amounts are usually recovered from the negligent driver’s insurers, making huge savings for taxpayers.
It is wrong that people injured by the negligent driving of another should not be compensated for the losses they have suffered. That is what the law is there for.
Myth 5: These are simple cases that anyone can do themselves in the Small Claims Court
Truth: A case may be relatively low value but that does not make it simple. Do you know how to prove liability, causation and quantum? And then calculate the appropriate interest? Do you know how to organise witnesses of fact and bring them to court? Or brief medical or expert witnesses and get them to court too? Can you pay for medical and other reports? Do the public know what heads of damage they are entitled to claim for? The answer is probably no in most cases.
Personal injury cases are not straightforward , which is why insurance companies will continue to use lawyers, whatever court the case is in. Indeed because of the complexity of such cases, the small claims limit for injury claims has been lower than for other cases for many years as the Ministry of Justice has previously recognised that they are not suitable for victims to handle themselves.
How you can help stop this threat to justice?
Please join us and many others in fighting against this erosion of justice by writing to your MP and ask them to vote against the Civil liability Bill. You will find their address at https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
You may also get involved by following the hashtag #repairtherightbody across most social media channels. Please also follow, like and retweet supporting organisations including @ccesstojustice and @APIL amongst others.
For further information please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0114 218 4000.