Posted by Rachel Jones, Senior Claims Handler
Why people injured in accidents must keep the right to claim
After some delay, the Ministry of Justice has launched its consultation for proposals to reduce whiplash claims which currently closes on 6 January 2017. With other restrictions on the horizon for both Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence claimants, access to justice has never been more threatened.
As was reported on 17 November 2016, the Ministry of Justice is pressing on with its consultation, with the ultimate aim to stamp out fraudulent claims, prevent more people from claiming the compensation they are rightfully entitled to, and reduce the so-called “whiplash” claim epidemic.
This despite the fact that the Government’s own Compensation Recovery Unit have confirmed a significant drop in the number of whiplash injuries registered with them, apparently from 571,111 in 2011 to 335,365 in 2016. The figures speak for themselves. In excess of 235,000 fewer claims simply does not tally with the Government’s repeated insistence that compensation claims involving whiplash-type injuries are still spiralling out of control. In addition, the insurance industry have still not passed on any savings to motorists by way of reduced premiums, despite their repeated assurance over the years that this would be the cherry on the cake of the Government’s reforms. Yet still, both the Government and the insurance industry go on the defensive and blame claimant lawyers for all that is supposedly wrong in the world.
The key proposals of the consultation are:
- To remove the automatic right to compensation, or cap the amount that can be claimed for minor “whiplash” injuries;
- To raise the Small Claims limit for all Personal Injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000;
- To introduce a tariff system for more significant injuries;
- To ban offers to settle claims without medical evidence, and insist on medical reports from accredited medical experts as proof of injury before any monies are paid out.
It is worth noting that:
- Significant steps have already been implemented to curb the alleged whiplash claims epidemic, including the introduction of an electronic claims portal, more mandatory checks to identify potentially fraudulent claimants, and the MedCo database of accredited medical experts;
- A huge number of claimants will no longer be able to get legal representations if the Small Claims limit is raised, and in all likelihood, when faced with an insurer who can easily afford the best solicitors and barristers to vigorously defend claims, the majority of ordinary people will balk at the thought of going up against them in person and simply decide not to pursue the claim at all;
- It is insurers, rather than claimant solicitors, who repeatedly put forward what are known as pre-medical offers, so offers in cases where there is no medical report as proof. Claimant solicitors cannot properly advise their clients on the value of claims for injuries without a medical report with a clear prognosis, and so risk under-settling claims and leaving themselves open to professional negligence claims. This practice was supposed to have been stamped out in the last set of Government reforms. By doing this, insurers are themselves generating a “money for nothing” attitude.
The so called “compensation culture”, much hyped by the Government and the insurance industry, is simply a myth. It is all too easy to vilify those who quite legitimately claim for injuries, until you find yourself in their position.
Lastly, consider this: the Government are quite happy to allow people to claim from airlines for delayed or cancelled flights, but want to prevent someone injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence to seek rightful compensation. How can that be right?
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