Hidden impact of government whiplash reforms

23 December 2016

Government proposals to clamp down on perceived fraud in whiplash claims include plans to remove access to free or affordable legal advice for 95% of all personal injury claimants.

Behind the claims that car insurance premiums will be reduced due to restricting bogus whiplash claims, is a sinister attempt to impose a baseless 500% increase to the small claims limit for all personal injury claims, whether they occur on the road, in the workplace, or anywhere else.

The government consultation on reforming the soft tissue injury (whiplash) claims process, includes a proposal that the small claims limit should be increased from £1,000 to £5,000 for all personal injury claims in England and Wales.

These proposals do the reverse of prime minister Theresa May’s promise to support “just about managing” families. They will serve to line the pockets of already highly profitable insurers and their grossly overpaid chief executives, while costing the taxpayer £135m every year.  Direct Line’s Chief Executive Paul Geddes received £4.82m in 2015 and Aviva’s Chief Executive Mark Wilson received £5.67m.

Meanwhile almost one million people a year will lose their right to affordable, independent legal advice.

The government’s own modest projections suggest the proposals would see the NHS lose at least £45m over the course of a parliament, while insurers will be gifted £200m per year, assuming the insurers pass on 85% of what they save in reduced premiums for motorists.

There is no justification given for workplace accident and disease claims and employer liability cases to come under the scope of these changes.

The government’s stated reasons for their proposals have nothing to do with work injury cases: there is no suggestion of fake claims by injured workers.  Work injury claims have fallen over the last 10 years and there is no evidence that including workplace injuries will benefit the public in any way.

Solicitors point out that injury at work claims in court are the only legal enforcement of health and safety at work legislation in almost all employment injury cases. They warn that these proposals would end that means of enforcement.

Even the government’s claim that car insurance premiums will be reduced by tackling false whiplash claims is likely to be spurious, as the announcement in the autumn statement to increase insurance premium tax by 2% is likely to cancel out those savings for drivers.

We will be responding to the government consultation in the new year and you can support the campaign against the proposals by signing the online petition.

Find out more at Thompsons Solicitors’ Small Claims, Big Impact campaign page


 

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