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Injured people should not be denied access to justice

Author: Rebecca Wharton

In the Autumn Statement of 2016 the government announced that it was bringing forward “a package of measures to disincentivise minor, exaggerated and fraudulent road traffic accident related soft-tissue injury claims.”

The government says that “despite previous government reforms, improvements in vehicle safety and a reduction in the number of reported accidents, the number of personal injury claims following a road traffic accident remains 50% higher than in 2006. This has led to higher car insurance premiums for motorists.” According to government, if the reforms are approved insurers have pledged to pass on the savings, worth about £40 a year to policyholders.

In addition, the government is consulting as to whether compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) for minor whiplash claims will either be removed entirely or replaced by a fixed sum.

The Justice Secretary Liz Truss when she announced the proposals stated: “for too long some have exploited a rampant compensation culture and seen whiplash claims as an easy payday, driving up costs for millions of law-abiding motorists.”

However, personal injury lawyers have voiced concerns that if the government’s proposals become law they will restrict a claimant’s access to justice. Neil Sugarman, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), commented: “Removing damages for genuine whiplash cases and making claimants injured at work, on the roads and in hospitals, jump through higher hoops to obtain their compensation, victimises people who have been injured through no fault of their own.”

A parliamentary Select Committee met on 7 February 2017 regarding the reforms. James Dalton of the Association of British Insurers was questioned by the chair of the committee Bob Neill, who stated that he thought that reforms were based on ‘no hard evidence’. Neill then went on to ask Dalton skeptically “Are you telling me this is going to feed through into lower car insurance premiums?”

Conservative MP and solicitor Alberto Costa stated to Dalton ‘Your organisation has used the word “epidemic” to talk about whiplash claims… Is it also the case that whiplash claims have come significantly down?” Dalton agreed, grudgingly, but promised to provide further information at a later date.

It is encouraging to see that the Committee has justifiably given these proposals the scrutiny they deserve and we await the outcome of their continued consultations.

We at Atherton Godfrey are well aware of the impact that soft-tissue injuries can have on a victim’s life. Often it may take clients many months, if not years, to recover from their injuries. It is for this reason that we join with APIL in objecting to the government’s proposals.

If you would like to discuss making a personal injury claim please do not hesitate to contact a member of our friendly team.

 

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