The initial focus will be on implementing the changes in relation to Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs), specifically with its principal aim being to increase the small claims limit for RTAs to £5,000.
The Civil Liability Bill which will govern these reforms is yet to be published, however the Justice Select Committee has issued a report stating that the Whiplash reform is a key element which is set to see a tariff of damages introduced. This so called tariff system is supposedly set to imitate many of the proposals in the Prisons and Court Bill. It is said we will see things such as a tariff system based on injury duration to replace the current JC Guidelines, which focuses more on the severity of the injury and a ban on offers to settle without obtaining medical evidence in Whiplash claims.
Resistance to these reforms has been very vocal and Simon Stanfield, the Chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) said: “MASS shall continue to fight the proposed changes to RTA whiplash claims at every opportunity, but if Parliament approves the plan and they do proceed, there are still huge questions about how it would be implemented, operated and how the worst consequences can be limited.. There is an enormous amount for the Government to sort out if it is to hit its April 2019 target date.”
These whiplash reforms should also be considered parallel to the Government’s proposal to transfer the regulation of Claims Management Companies (CMCs) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as part of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill (FGCB). Unlike the actual reforms this move is largely welcomed by the personal injury sector as part of the battle to minimise the business of unethical operators.
On the other hand, the whiplash reforms are also likely to increase litigants in person, this in turn may result in the increase of CMCs and paid Mckenzie friends who will seek to inhabit the space abandoned by Solicitors. These types of concerns are also echoed by other colleagues who have implied that greater involvement of CMCs in the claims procedure would commence an increase of fraudulent claims. With the government arguably only implementing the whiplash reforms to defend against fraud it seems that it could well be increasing the risk of this which is inconsistent to what the reforms are designed to achieve.
As nothing was mentioned during the Government update about future plans to increase the small claims limit for other types of Personal Injury we expect that these reforms will come in at a later date.