As part of the Autumn statement last year, Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement that major changes affecting whiplash personal injury claims were to be implemented by the government. The impetus behind the proposed changes is to tackle what is believed to be a ‘compensation culture’ sweeping the UK. The changes are largely backed by the insurance industry. However, the proposed changes are causing problems for whiplash victims, legal organizations and law firms.
Changes Affecting Whiplash Claims
A number of changes were announced that will if implemented, affect personal injury law and practice, in particular, the law pertaining to whiplash injury claims.
Firstly, the government plans to abolish general damages for minor soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash. Whiplash victims will still be able to make claims for special damages for things such as loss of earnings, where they have evidence to prove this. However, they will no longer be compensated for pain and suffering or loss of amenity experienced as a result of their injury.
In addition, this change is made in tandem with a proposal to raise the small claims limit for personal injury claims from £1000 to £5000. The practical application of implementing this changes will mean that in order to make a whiplash claim, the special damages claim of the sufferer must be worth £10,000. This will prove to be a great barrier for many people who have suffered a whiplash injury as a result of an accident.
Furthermore, personal injury firms are already seeing the effect of the proposed changes, even before they are implemented. Personal injury firm, Slater & Gordon, has seen its value drop dramatically following the announcement. The Australian company’s shares dropped 51pc. The company said:
“While the Government’s announcement was unexpected, the company believes that the scale and diversity of the Slater Gordon Solutions business in the UK positions it well to deal with the potential impact of any future legislative change,”
It is not only firms that are struggling to come to terms with the proposals. Three important legal organizations, The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Motor Accident Solicitors Society and the Law Society, have come together to oppose the changes. They have unified on what they believe to be an “a red line issue.” The organizations will respond to the consultation on the issue which is expected to be pushed in March 2016. Each of the bodies will submit a separate response. However, they will give a unified message in the hope of convincing the government of the opinion of the sector, and the problems such changes to the law may cause. The government has indicated that the proposal to eliminate general damages for minor soft tissue injuries will be introduced in April 2017 – if it goes ahead. At present, there is no indication as to whether the changes to the small claims limit will be introduced, or when it will be introduced.
Molly McGrady is a legal writer for the Accident Claims Web, who can put you in touch with no win no fee road traffic accident lawyers who can provide expert legal advice and assistance on road traffic accident claims in the UK.