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Civil Liberty Bill Denies Access to Justice

In response to claims that there is a compensation culture in the UK, the government intends to bring in measures to curtail compensation claims, which include raising the small claims limit and significantly reducing the compensation recoverable for whiplash.

The government, along with the Association of British Insurers, claims that the number of whiplash claims has been “too high for too long” and are “symptomatic of a wider compensation culture” in England and Wales, despite all independent statistics showing that isn’t the case.

As a result the government hopes to introduce the Civil Liability Bill, which will allow the introduction of fixed tariffs for whiplash claims, and enable an increase in the small claims limit (the suggested figure is £5,000 for road traffic accident claims), enable an increase in the small claims limit for accidents at work and slips and trip claims (suggested to be £2,000). It will also look to increase the scope of fixed costs in other areas such as clinical negligence claims.

If introduced, individuals who are injured in road traffic accidents through no fault of their own would be denied access to legal advice and would be faced with drastically reduced levels of compensation. The compensation tariffs suggested for whiplash claims are as follows:

Injury duration2015 average payment (£) for
PSLA uplifted to take account
of JCG uplift (industry data)

Judicial College Guideline
(JCG) amounts (£)
(13th edition)
Published September 2015
            New tariff amounts
(£)
0 – 3 months1,750A few hundred pounds to 2,050225
4 – 6 months2,1502,050 – 3,630450
7 – 9 months2,6002,050 – 3,630765
10 – 12 months3,1002,050 – 3,6301,190
13 – 15 months3,5003,630 – 6,6001,820
16 – 18 months3,9503,630 – 6,6002,660
19 – 24 months4,5003,630 – 6,6003,725

The sweeping reforms were debated in the House of Lords on 24 April 2018, and appear to be moving forward despite the fact that the figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 23 April 2018 show that the number of claims is actually falling, and so the cost to insurance companies is also falling.

The Civil Liability Bill raises more questions than it answers. When will it be introduced? Will it be April 2019, October 2019, or April 2020? What will the final version of the bill actually look like? One of the difficulties with the bill is that it gives sweeping powers to the justice minister to set rates that currently need the approval of parliament.

The insurance industry is keen to exclude lawyers from the process of claiming compensation, so one of the major tasks will be to design a system for claiming compensation that is easy to use. This puts the timetable for the reforms in doubt.

If we wish to preserve our fundamental right to justice, we must all act. You can spread the word over social media or write to your local MP. For easy guides on how you can make a difference, click here.  on the following link for letter templates and other ideas.

Author: Gillian Ward

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