24 Mar Whiplash reforms put on hold until August
The well-documented reforms to whiplash claims have been postponed due to the Government determining more time is needed for implementation.
The litigants in person portal, which is part of the Government’s reforms to how whiplash claims are handled, has been delayed until August, the Ministry of Justice confirmed last month.
The portal is a vital part of the small claims reforms, and while Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said there had been “major progress” towards implementation, the Government has taken the decision to delay the roll-out. This is to ensure there is sufficient time to work with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee to put in place the supporting rules and pre-action protocol, while also preparing the industry for the coming changes.
What are the proposed small claims limit changes?
The whiplash reforms revolve around changing how people can claim compensation once they have been in an accident. It involves changing the small claims limit. Once the reforms are enforced, people injured in a car accident who suffer neck/back/shoulder soft tissue injuries will no longer be able to instruct a solicitor to bring a claim on their behalf.
Currently, the small claims limit for injuries incurred through road traffic accidents is £1,000. The reforms will see this limit rise to £5,000. For all other types of personal injury it will double, to £2,000.
This means that all road traffic accident claims that are valued at less than £5,000 will have to go through the small claims court. This, therefore, will mean that those victims will be unable to reclaim the cost of representation.
The reforms will also bring in a tariff for small claims, which will be introduced to limit the amount of compensation that can be claimed. The tariffs have not yet been officially published by the Government, but the proposed figures are significantly lower than the current compensation, and may be as little as £500. The tariffs, correct as of 24th March 2020, are as follows:
The three main changes to the claiming, once introduced, will be:
- The insurance company will not pay for a solicitor to deal with the case even though the accident is not your fault.
- The insurance industry has, in essence, persuaded the government to make soft tissue injuries in a car accident worthless
- If you want to claim you will either pay for your own lawyer or do it yourself and battle the insurance company and their lawyers
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland also announced last month that the Government have dropped the Alternative Dispute Resolution part of the portal, which could have been a vital lifeline for any litigant trying to resolve liability disputes against much a larger and wealthier insurer. Mr Buckland said –
There is no practicable solution which gave sufficient coverage of ADR for claims that could be found.
As a result, ADR will no longer be part of the online service. Instead, we will ensure access to justice by developing bespoke processes to enable litigants to go to court to establish liability.
What these bespoke processes are remain to be seen.
Mr Buckland did, however, confirm that the small claims track limit would not apply to those who have been deemed vulnerable road-users, such as motor-cyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, as well as children or protected parties. He stated:
Because these claimants will not be subject to the new small claims limit, they will also not be subject to the new pre-action protocol and so will not have access to the online service.
As such, they will not be able to source their own medical report via the online service, which is statutorily required to settle claims for whiplash injuries.
Therefore, until they can access the online service, the normal track for claims by children and protected parties which include a whiplash injury, will be the fast-track and these claims will not be allocated to the small claims track.
When were the small claim changes supposed to come into action?
The Government had initially worked on the basis of implementing the changes by April 2019. Last year, however, this was delayed after the requirement for extensive testing in order to ensure that the system is easy to use and the guidance is clear.
The changes were then touted to be implemented in full in April 2020. This new delay takes the implementation date to August 1st 2020.
It is also worth noting that these reforms were delayed at the end of February. There has been no official news of the new August 1st 2020 date changing since the outbreak of Coronvirus (COVID-19). We would assume that this delay will be indefinite until the pandemic has passed.
How can Smooth Law help?
If you have been injured through no fault of your own, our personal injury lawyers can help you claim compensation. With decades of experience across our team, we can provide clear, confident and compassionate guidance for every step of the claims process, giving you the best chance of securing fair compensation.
Our lawyers are members of APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) reflecting our expertise with all types of personal injury claims and we represent all of our clients on a no win, no fee basis, so there is no upfront charge to start a claim.