This article first appeared in New Law Journal, 15th February 2018
Small claims limit for RTAs set to be raised to £5,000
Controversial whiplash reforms could come in as early as April next year, ministry officials have confirmed to solicitors.
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) has revealed ministers confirmed at a meeting this week that they plan to introduce tariffs for soft tissue or whiplash injuries in April 2019. The plan is dependent on the Civil Liability Bill progressing through Parliament in time.
The small claims limit for road traffic accident cases would be raised from £1,000 to £5,000 via secondary legislation at the same time. MASS say most claimants would not then be able to access legal representation, as costs cannot be recovered in the small claims court.
Simon Stanfield, chair of MASS, said MASS would fight the plans but warned that, if approved, there were ‘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’.
Patrick Allen, senior partner of Hodge Jones & Allen, described the reforms as ‘misconceived’.
‘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”,’ he said.
‘Therefore, the government may struggle to persuade Parliament or the courts that the proposed reforms are lawful.’
However, insurance lawyer Deborah Newberry, head of public affairs at Kennedys, welcomed the news.
‘For compensators, including insurers, the uncertainty around the Civil Liability Bill has understandably been a source of considerable frustration—compounded by the uncertainty around the domestic reform agenda more broadly and the UK’s exit from the EU.’