The annual conference of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers included a talk from Justice minister Lord Keen of Elie (Richard Keen QC). During his speech, he confirmed that the Civil Liability Bill is continuing its was through Parliament.
The more controversial of the measures proposed in the Bill are:
● a tariff system for whiplash injuries caused in road traffic accidents;
● a ban on any settlement offers being made before a victim has been examined by an independent clinician;
● an increase to the limit in the small claims court to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims.
All of the above measures are designed to reduce costs to insurance companies, and to remove the need for legal representation when someone is injured in a road traffic accident. Lord Keen assured conference delegates that insurers would pass on the savings to motorists in the form of reduced car insurance premiums.
A number of questions remain unanswered:
● Why should innocent victims shoulder any blame and go without legal representation? Is access to justice not a paramount feature of a society in which we would like to live?
● All victims need to be examined by clinicians before offers are made; this is an attempt to weed out dishonest claims from being made. Rather than penalising the innocent victims who have genuine injuries, would it not be better for insurers to fight dishonest claims? Make an example out of anyone who brings a dishonest claim; take it to Trial; claim your costs.
● If insurers do not pass on their lower costs by way of lower premiums, what can and will the government do about it? If savings are passed on initially, how can the government prevent insurers from simply hiking premiums up again within a couple of years?
Whether or not answers to these questions are provided before the Bill hits the statute books remains to be seen.
Joseph Norton, Head of Compensation