This article first appeared in the Law Gazette, 16 November 2016
Labour’s shadow justice minister has told claimant lawyers her party will oppose any attempts to raise the small claims limit. Neath MP Christina Rees told the Motor Accident Solicitors Society conference today that insurers had not done enough to show there is a whiplash epidemic, and failed to prove they would pass on any savings from reforms.
The government consultation on personal injury – a long-awaited response to George Osborne’s autumn statement last year – is expected to be published imminently, with potential changes to the small claims limit and a removal of general damages for soft-tissue injuries.
‘There are simple questions the insurers need to answer before they use fraud as a battering ram,’ said Rees. ‘If insurers suspect a claim the answer is to defend it. The idea that whiplash is excluded from damages is a nonsense. It is a slippery slope to go down.
‘There is no doubt the increase they want in the small claims limit will have a direct impact on their bottom line. The insurers need to say what they think fraud is.’
She added: ‘The Labour party will oppose any increase in the small claims limit until the insurers are open with consumers.’
Rees said her own party and claimant lawyers had each failed to convince people that they were fighting for them and that they needed to win back favour amongst the public.
Earlier in the conference, being held in Manchester, new MASS chair Simon Stanfield warned the government will repeat the same mistakes of the past if it pushes ahead with reform without seeing how previous changes are taking effect.
‘It is an agenda being pursued without adequate research or scrutiny of the possible consequences,’ he said.
‘Introducing a regulatory regime where the just majority are penalised for the actions of the unjust minority is surely not the right way to tackle the problem.’
Stanfield said last autumn’s proposals could increase both the frequency and cost of claims, and he reiterated MASS’s call for a blanket ban on cold calling.