For some time now, the Government has been planning to raise the limit for road traffic personal injury claims from £1000.00 to £5000.00.

What this would mean in practical terms is that if you were involved in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault, you could only make a claim with the assistance of a solicitor or legal representative if your injury was “worth” £5000.00 or over.  

Currently, you can make a claim for personal injury in these circumstances where your injury is “worth” at least £1000.00. What would happen is that insurers would not have to pay legal costs for claims under £5000.00 and so solicitors would not take them on, obviously as they wouldn’t get paid, even where the clam was run under a Conditional Fee Agreement.

This was argued to be necessary by the Government, backed by insurers, that there were far too many “whiplash” claims, many of them deemed to be spurious or even fraudulent and these were pushing costs up and up for insurers who had to pay out on such claims for injury compensation and legal costs.

The insurers claimed that they had no choice but to meet the costs of these claims by increasing the cost of insurance premiums for motorists, so in effect, everyone was paying for these claims.

Instead, the Government was intending to bring in what it called its “Whiplash Reforms”.

Very briefly, claims under £5000.00 would have to be made by members of the public themselves, using a new computerised “portal” system, which would take them through the process of the claim, which of course, was what solicitors do now for you.   Compensation for injuries would be based on a “fixed tariff”, or list, system where specific injuries would attract a specific amount in compensation, with many if not most of the awards being lower than could now be obtained, where each award is looked at on its merits and the nature and extent of individual injuries.

The changes did however also mean that insurers would be prevented from making very early offers of compensation without the benefit of a medical report on behalf of the Claimant.  Early offers of settlement can be attractive if they are fair and appropriate, but without a medical report, the Claimant might not be aware of the full extent of the injury, nor its longer term prognosis and that early offer could turn out to be an undersettlement. But in the majority of cases, there would be no way of going back for further compensation in those circumstances.

Without going into too much detail, there were criticisms of the proposed new regime.

It was  thought that people with genuine and painful injuries that did not reach the threshold of £5000.00 would lose out on claims.  Not everyone is computer literate or even has access to a computer to make a claim, so again many would not make a claim that was quite legitimate.  There were significant problems and delays with designing and implementing the portal system. The Government insisted it was on time for it’s launch in April 2020, then possibly August, though most people in the legal profession thought it was more likely to be October 2020, if that.

Today, 21 April 2020, Robert Buckland, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, gave an update on progress on the implementation of the Scheme and it will come as little surprise to anyone that the programme has been put back significantly to new proposed start date of April 2021.

Mr Buckland has this to say:

“The Government remains firmly committed to implementing these measures which are intended to control the number and cost of whiplash claims………..The Government indicated on 27 February 2020 that after careful consideration it had decided to implement the whiplash reforms in August 2020.

 However, it is apparent that the current Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the medical, legal and insurance sectors. While the whiplash reform measures remain important, the Government is committed to acting to ease the disruption and pressures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak where it can.

As a result, the Government has considered representations from key stakeholder groups and agrees that now is not the time to press ahead with significant transformational change to the personal injury sector.

We have therefore decided to delay the implementation of the whiplash reform programme to April 2021. This will enable key sectors of this country’s business to focus their energies on delivering their response to Covid-19, and will allow the Government to focus on delivering key services in the justice area during this difficult time”

What it means?

What it means for the public is that there is now an extra year during which claims can be made for more minor, but still genuine, injury;  claims where compensation would be over £1000.00, but under £5000.00 into which category a lot of claims do fall.  They will not be expected to use a computerised portal and can still obtain legal assistance.  The injury will still be assessed on an individual basis and not just where it falls on a fixed list.

We can help

There may be further changes and the regime may not be restricted to road traffic accident claims in the end.  Our advice has to be that if you unfortunately suffer any type of accident and are injured through, you believe, no fault of your own,  do contact us to see if we can help with making a claim.

Although our physical offices may be closed for safety in these unprecedented times, our staff are still very much open for business through email, telephone or our helpline on our website.

Call 03333 580393 or email enquiries@ringroselaw.co.uk.

 

 

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