Proposed whiplash reform – is it a pain in the neck?
21 November 2016 by Lauren Hancock
Defenders and critics of the personal injury claims process were once again thrust into the media limelight last week, with the Government publishing a consultation on whiplash claim reform. They suggest that their proposals to reduce or eliminate compensation payments in respect of whiplash claims will reduce insurance premiums by eliminating fraudulent or exaggerated claims, but to whose detriment?
Under the current rules, when making a personal injury claim for whiplash, any compensation award is made up of two amounts. The first is a sum for pain and suffering and the second the total of any actual financial loss incurred as a result of the injury sustained. If implemented, the current proposals will either eliminate damages for pain and suffering entirely, or cap these at £425.00. The proposals also seek to increase the small claims limit to £5,000.00, meaning that the legal costs currently paid by the losing party would also be eliminated.
It is argued that these changes are necessary to derail the UK’s so-called “compensation culture”. With limited evidential support, the consultation highlights the number of fraudulent and exaggerated claims as a major factor in the high cost of car insurance. Despite having already implemented reforms in 2012, for the very same reason, the Government proposes that further reform to the law will reduce consumer premiums.
The proposals ignore the fact that the overall number of personal injury motor claims has in fact decreased by over 55,000 when compared with figures for the year 2011/12. Latest figures depict a yearly saving of over £1,000.00 on average from the comparative period in 2011 for comprehensive insurance cover. The media often blames victims of personal injury for “spiralling” insurance premiums, but is the problem really as bad as they would lead us to believe?
Those whose lives are seriously impacted by injuries sustained in road traffic accidents are set to suffer considerably as a result of the proposed reforms. At present, the Courts recognise the complexities of personal injury law and the necessity for legal representation in all but the most minor of cases. Restricting such representation will limit access to justice for thousands of genuine claimants up and down the country.
Whilst it is easy to be swayed by stories of fraudulent claims and exaggerated injuries, these represent a tiny proportion of cases. Limiting damages and eliminating the recovery of legal costs for everyone who genuinely sustains soft tissue injury will not provide a just outcome and is unlikely to deter those determined to pursue fraudulent compensation claims in any event.
Punishment of those who have genuinely suffered injury is not the answer. If, as it is alleged the problem lies with fraudulent and exaggerated claims, targeting those responsible is a more sensible use of resources.
We at Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP recognise the physical, psychological and financial repercussions that sustaining a personal injury may cause. If you have suffered an injury as a result of an accident in the past 3 years that was not your fault and wish to consider making a claim, please contact us on 01206 217524.