Legal Futures, 12th February 2018
By Neil Rose
The government plans to introduce its whiplash reforms in April 2019, it emerged today.
A statement put out by the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) said it and other members of the ‘strategic alliance’ – that includes the Law Society and Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) – have today been told that ministers have agreed for the personal injury reforms to be implemented from April 2019.
The initial focus will be on implementing the changes in relation to road traffic accident accidents (RTAs), indicating that those for other types of personal injury will come in at a later date.
MASS chair Simon Stanfield said: “MASS shall continue to fight the proposed changes to RTA whiplash claims at every opportunity – but if Parliament approves the plans and they do proceed, there are still huge questions about how it would be implemented, operated and how the worst consequences can be limited.
“There is an enormous amount for the government to sort out if it is to hit its April 2019 target date.”
The date has been set before the Civil Liability Bill – announced in last summer’s Queen’s Speech – has even been published, although Legal Futures understands that this could finally happen shortly.
It also comes before the justice select committee issues its report on raising the small claims limit for RTA to £5,000 and all other personal injury to £2,000, a key element of the reforms, which will also see a tariff of damages introduced.
APIL president Brett Dixon said: “Ministers have at least taken on board our arguments about the importance of introducing any changes in stages and not leaping ahead to include employers’ liability and public liability claims.
“That the reforms will go ahead at all is, of course, unwelcome news to injured people, but APIL will use its seat at the table to help to safeguard access to justice for injured people as far as possible. There is still a lot of work to do in the next 14 months.”
Patrick Allen, senior partner of Hodge Jones & Allen and a former APIL president, said: “These reforms are misconceived and we will continue to oppose them at every stage. At the very least, the government should wait to see the report of the justice select committee following its evidence gathering session in January.
“The reforms will put significant impediments in the way of claimants seeking justice for smaller personal injury claims and would appear to be caught by the Supreme Court’s statement in last July’s Unison case that, without unimpeded access to justice, the democratic process was in danger of becoming “a meaningless charade”.
“Therefore the government may struggle to persuade Parliament or the courts that the proposed reforms are lawful.”
Last month, the government revealed how much work has been going on behind the scenes to bring the reforms into being, detailing five working groups  made up of all sides of the personal injury world that are working on them.
These cover the overall strategic direction, guidance and support for litigants, legal issues, liability, and IT.