Personal Injury Legal Update in E&W – Civil Liability Bill Continues its Progress Through Parliament

by Personal Injury Claims Blawg on May 1, 2018

The Government looks set to forge ahead with its controversial Civil Liability Bill, with the legislation recently having its second reading in the House of Lords. The Committee stage, which is the first real chance to amend the Bill, is scheduled to begin on 10th May.

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill, which will apply mainly to England and Wales, has two key purposes:

  • to reform the claims process for whiplash claims with injuries lasting up to two years as a result of road traffic accidents, and
  • to make changes to the way the personal injury discount rate, applied to lump sums awarded for future loss of income, is set.

It was unveiled by the Government in March this year with the justification that the legislation is needed to reduce the high number of whiplash claims and allow insurers to cut premiums. It highlighted that road traffic accident related personal injury claims are 50% higher than a decade ago, despite a fall in the number of reported accidents and the UK having some of the safest roads in Europe. According to the Government, this can be attributed in part to “predatory” sections of the claims industry that encourage minor, exaggerated and fraudulent claims.

It says that the proposed changes will allow compensation to be awarded in a more balanced way, so that victims of catastrophic accidents, including the most vulnerable, can be fully compensated while also ensuring that issues around overpayment can be addressed.

Law Society Raises Access to Justice Concerns

However, the measures contained within the Bill have attracted significant criticism.

The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that the legislation risks creating a “paradox”, where someone hurt in a road traffic accident will be entitled to less compensation than if they had sustained the injury another way.

It has also expressed concern over the difficulties road traffic accident victims will face in trying to access justice.

“We are concerned about the lack of clarity because fixed levels of compensation are set to be imposed for whiplash injuries,” explained Law Society president Joe Egan. “The Law Society is therefore calling for the definition of whiplash to be set by medical experts.”

“When combined with Ministry of Justice plans to increase the small claims limit, the amount of legal advice and guidance that can be obtained from a solicitor in these cases will be severely restricted,” he said. “Our concerns about the legislation were echoed by peers, who stated that the increase in the small claims limit will ‘deny very large numbers of genuine claimants legal advice and representation’.”

“This legislation has a long way to go and we will continue to oppose these reforms,” he added.

Principles of the Bill Discredited

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has also criticised the Bill. It points out that the number of personal injury motor insurance claims has actually fallen to the lowest level in almost a decade and claims that this fact discredits the principles behind the new legislation.

“Motor claims are not rocketing,” stated APIL President, Brett Dixon. “Insurance industry evidence also shows very clearly that the cost to insurance companies of motor injury claims has been falling for a long time, by 21% since 2013 to be precise.”

“This Bill will not achieve its aims to lower premium costs for motorists,” he added. “The insurance industry will get away with using injured people as scapegoats. Any concept of fairness or compassion or help for genuinely injured people will be sacrificed for the empty promise of cheaper car insurance.”

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

PI claims blogger at PIClaimsBlawg
Personal Injury Claims Blawg is a personal injury law blog, inviting contributions from practitioners, PI law firms and legal academics across the UK, US and beyond. The post above has been published because of the high value associated with the author's work. Contact us if you'd like to get published today.
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