This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine Issue 34, October 2018
It offends an important principle of justice. The legislation deliberately introduces injustice into our law. It involves discrimination against legitimate claimants, irrespective of their means.
These powerful words are not mine, but those of Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales and Master of the Rolls. Forming part of his razor-sharp denunciation of the proposed reforms, his words resonated with many of his Peers and anyone concerned about justice should be reciting them to all who will listen in the weeks ahead as the Civil Liability Bill reaches its final stages.
Many of the proposed changes are probably unwanted. Most are undoubtedly misdirected, designed to tackle a fraud problem that is overstated. Or, as the number of claims continues to tumble, a cost-saving exercise that is clearly unjustified and which will benefit absolutely no-one, apart from the insurance companies themselves. All the while, there continues to be dithering over other pressing measures, such as the now fabled Part 2 of the reforms.
Unwanted though the new processes may be by claimant solicitors, they can probably be accommodated, although not without considerable discomfort. No, the real damage to justice is not going to result from the architecture of the processes being proposed, but their implementation. Introduced in tandem at the current rates and levels proposed, the fixed tariff scheme, one of the pillars of the Civil Liability Bill, and the increase in the Small Claims Track Limit, will fundamentally change the claims landscape for whiplash and related injuries, severely reducing the likelihood of independent legal advice for the victims of so-called low value motor accidents. When combined with the new online-only LIP Portal, a gateway for CMCs, the impact will be permanent and nothing but detrimental to claimants.
Even as the end of the Bill’s passage through Parliament draws near, it is not yet too late. Both
the tariff of damages and the new small claims limit could both be set at levels that are fairer and more reasonable for accident victims. The rights of individual accident victims should be protected, and the honest majority should not be punished for the actions of a small and dishonest minority.
Simon Stanfield, author of ‘Not too late?’ is Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and a Partner at Simpson Millar