This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine Issue 35, December 2018
In the early days of the passage of the Civil Liability Bill, MASS wrote to the Lords’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee arguing that the full impact of the proposed reforms could not be understood without considering the proposed regulations that will follow the legislation and concluding that “The devil is very much in the detail.” With the Bill nearing Royal Assent, we will next see the intended devilry and begin to fully understand the dreadful consequences for accident victims.
There are six remaining areas to be dealt with by regulations which will be brought forward under secondary legislation or Statutory Instruments. Ministers will receive authority to prepare five of these once the Bill is granted Royal Assent in the next few weeks. These include the tariff of damages and the uplift of damages in exceptional circumstances. The sixth, the proposed increase in the small claims limit, will be introduced independently under the civil procedure rules. Collectively they will fundamentally reconfigure the future claims landscape. We do not know the process yet, and whether there will be any further consultation, or the timetable for their production and introduction, other than they will need to be in place in time for testing of the new Portal in the autumn of next year.
What we do know is that if they are drafted as has been planned, motor accident victims will simply be unable to get the justice that they deserve, having been purposely discriminated against as an intended Government policy. They will likely lose independent legal representation as a resurgent, and forever grateful, CMC sector takes full advantage of access to the new LIP Portal and an unregulated system where just about anyone can claim to offer “legal advice”. This will particularly adversely impact vulnerable groups – people on lower incomes, the disabled, the young, the elderly and those with poor or no digital access. No accident victim, whatever their level of pain and suffering, but particularly these groups, should be so openly prevented from receiving full justice. The implementation of the reforms could yet be fair and appropriate without severely affecting the rights of genuine accident victims. It is not yet too late.
Paul Nicholls, author of Understanding the consequences, has been Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) since October 2018 and is a Senior Partner in Nicholls Brimble Bhol