Whiplash Reform

95% of specialists oppose Government plan to deprive injured people of legal advice

09 January 2017

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CILEx has responded to the Government’s consultation on whiplash reform, saying the plans will penalise genuinely injured persons.

The consultation proposed to remove, or dramatically reduce, the compensation given to people injured in road traffic accidents that were not their fault, and to make it harder for them to get legal advice.

CILEx president Martin Callan FCILEx said: “CILEx members work for both claimants and defendants in these kinds of cases, but all have expressed reservations. These proposals have delivered a cold shiver of uncertainty for CILEx members who support injured persons to achieve restitution, and defendants say that responding to unrepresented and unsupported claimants will cause delay and confusion. I will be meeting with ministers, as well as with my counterparts at the Law Society and Bar Council, to discuss how we can ameliorate the worst impacts of these proposals.”

In its submission, CILEx recommended that:

  • Under no circumstances should the legal right to compensation for injury caused by the negligence of a third party be removed.
  • Compensation should be decided based on the severity as well as duration of injury, and judges should have discretion to decide the level of award.
  • A ‘minor’ injury involves a bruise or sticking plaster, not months of suffering. Defining an injury that lasts half a year or more as ‘minor’ is demonstrably wrong.
  • The small claims track is for faulty goods and unpaid invoices, not road traffic accident injuries.
  • The small claims limit for personal injury claims of any sort should not be raised. It will harm access to justice, worsen inequalities of arms, encourage exaggerated claims, and lead to potential turmoil in an already over-stretched court system.
  • Mental health issues should not be treated as ancillary or inconsequential, and compensation for psychological injury should be appropriately assessed and compensated for with propriety and compassion.

Read the full submission

Highlights from CILEx member responses:

Severity and duration of injury

  • 62% of surveyed CILEx members disagree or strongly disagree that duration alone is a sufficient measure for defining ‘minor’ RTA soft tissue claims. 
  • More than three quarters (78%) of CILEx members when surveyed said the duration threshold for ‘minor’ claims should be set at less than 6 months. 63% said it should be less than 3 months. 23% said it should be at 1 month (4 weeks).
  • A Chartered Legal Executive in Merseyside said “4 weeks disruption to one’s life would have much less impact than beyond. For short periods such as 1 month family and friends may be willing to assist and help out, work may be understanding, colleagues might be prepared to take up the slack – beyond that long term changes due to injury and limitations that they place upon victims can be massively disruptive to the life of victims and those they live and work with.”

Compensation for ‘minor’ claims

  • 94% of surveyed CILEx members disagree with removing PSLA compensation from minor claims, with 78% strongly disagreeing.
  • A CILEx Fellow specialising in personal injury from Stafford said “I fail to see why we have insurance to protect us against third party claims only to then preclude people from bringing a certain type of claim. If a person is injured through no fault of their own and due to negligence of another, they should have the right to bring a claim.”
  • 71% of surveyed CILEx members disagree with introducing a fixed sum for minor claims, with more than half (54%) strongly disagreeing.
  • A Chartered Legal Executive from Liverpool said “Every case has to turn on its own merits as this way some people would be over compensated and others under compensated.”

Raising the small claims limit

  • 87% of CILEx members surveyed disagree with the proposal to raise the small claims limit for all PI claims to £5,000, and 86% disagree with it being raised for RTA related PI claims.
  • 95% of respondents disagree with the limit being raised above £5,000 (82% strongly disagree).
  • A Chartered Legal Executive from Spalding said “Unless there is some costs benefits built in many Claimants will deal with claims without legal representation and in all probability struggle with the process.”
  • A defendant lawyer from Manchester said “As a defendant lawyer, I already deal with litigants in person and they would require a significant amount of assistance. These claims often result in increased costs and court time due to the likelihood that a LIP is unable to conduct the litigation effectively without representation. My experience is that a number of claims end up struck out due to the LIP’s failure to comply with court directions – again this is an access to justice issue.”