Government delays whiplash reforms until 2020

Houses of Parliament

Hotly anticipated personal injury reforms have been delayed a year, the government has confirmed.

In a response to the Justice Select Committee’s report on the Civil Liability Bill, the government said the revised timetable ensure the reforms are ready for large-scale testing by October 2019 with the view to implementing the measures in full in April 2020.

Previously the government has said changes would be implemented in April 2019.

The Bill comprises both changes to how whiplash claims are paid and how the discount rate is set.

The reforms will also see a reduced tariff for fixed for road traffic accident claims, and a new £5,000 small claims limit. However, some claimant lawyers argue that the reforms may restrict access to justice for claimants.

The Ministry of Justice said: “The Government is acutely aware that the proposed approach will fundamentally transform how whiplash claims are handled and that any concerns around access to justice have to be addressed promptly. There will need to be extensive user testing in order to ensure that the system is easy to use for all user groups and that the guidance is clear.

“This is why the Government is now proposing for the platform to be ready for large-scale testing by October 2019 with the view to implementing the whiplash measures, including the rise in the small claims limit to £5,000, fully in April 2020.”

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of the British Insurers, said:“In its report in May, the Justice Select Committee got it wrong when they tried to water down the Government’s much needed reforms which are designed to fix our broken compensation system.

“So we are pleased that the MoJ remains committed to delivering a modern civil justice system which includes fixed damages and a Small Claims Track limit increase to at least £5000. Getting the implementation of these reforms right is absolutely critical if the system is to deliver fairer outcomes for claimants and millions of motorists so it is sensible to delay implementation until April 2020.” 

Welcome delay

Critics of the bill have welcomed the delay with Access to Justice spokesperson Andrew Twambley said: “We welcome the government’s decision to delay implementation of the reforms until 2020, to ensure that the proposed online solution for claimants is fit for purpose. 

“Injured people cannot be looked after on an ‘it will be alright on the night basis.’ The delay will also give more time to implement the recommendations of the Insurance Fraud Taskforce, and prepare the legal expenses insurance market for the changes.”

Twambley highlighted further shortcomings in the bill: “There is still no solution for minor RTA claims where there is no admission of liability, meaning hundreds of thousands of injured people will fall out of the portal, and need an alternative. Ministers need to urgently address how they intend to deal with contested claims, and how this will be paid for.”

Commenting on the government’s response Shirley Woolham, CEO of Minster Law, said: “In conceding a further 12 months delay to these reforms, the MoJ has recognised that creating a technology solution to manage claims for road traffic accidents is no easy task.

“It is critical that all sides focus on delivering a good customer outcome that ensures claimants feel the justice system is working for them.” 

The Civil Liability Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 20 March 2018. It completed its third reading in the House of Lords on 27 June 2018 and was introduced in the House of Commons on 28 June 2018.

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