In a press release today the Ministry of Justice have announced a further "crackdown" on whiplash claims.
What will follow is a consultation, fuelled by concerns that despite the number of accidents having fallen in the past few years, accident compensation claims are up by 50%. This is despite banning referral fees (which encouraged middle men to aggressively advertise for personal injury victims in order to sell those claims to solicitors) and regulating medical experts for low value claims.
On the table for discussion are a tariff system of compensation payments for those with more significant injuries and also removing the right to claim any compensation for "minor" whiplash injuries - resurrecting the old argument that whiplash "does not exist".
The consultation will consider raising the small claims limit for personal injury from £1,000 to £5,000 - something which insurers have lobbied for over many years. A further proposal is that no compensation would be paid out unless a medical report is provided as proof of injury.
The Claimant organisation APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) was quick to respond today calling for an independent assessment of the facts and challenging the proposed reforms for treating accident victims as "second class citizens". APIL president, Neil Sugarman, stated “the right to compensation for an injury caused by someone else’s negligence has been an important aspect of civil justice for centuries, and with good reason”.
The consultation runs until 6 January 2017. Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
"For too long some have exploited a rampant compensation culture and seen whiplash claims an easy payday, driving up costs for millions of law-abiding motorists."
"These reforms will crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent claims. Insurers have promised to put the cash saved back in the pockets of the country’s drivers."
Strong words. What is less clear is when the government will find the time to draft any new legislation to carry out the recommendations of the consultation. Planning for Brexit may just turn out to be a higher priority. Some may remain sceptical that any reform will result in a real drop in premiums whilst the Courts will be overrun by litigants in person.