This article first appeared in the Law Society Gazette, 18 November 2020
Personal injury lawyers have called for a fundamental review of proposed whiplash compensation levels before tariffs are permanently slashed next year.
The Civil Liability Act will be implemented in April and will reduce damages levels by up to 90%, based on tariffs proposed in 2018.
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society this week submitted a plea to the lord chief justice asking for a rethink on these figures, arguing that the proposed rates are based on inaccurate and incomplete insurance data. The organisation says there has been little or no transparency about how the tariffs were calculated, and that they are unfairly low.
Paul Nicholls, chair of MASS, said the 2018 figures ‘remain fundamentally flawed, arbitrary and wholly unjust, having been contrived without any objectivity, logic or scrutiny. They are ridiculously low compared to the awards currently recommended by the courts and will cause considerable distress in the future for those unfortunate enough to sustain a road traffic accident whiplash injury after their introduction,’ said Nicholls.
‘When genuinely injured people realise the true impact of the reforms, they will rightly feel deeply aggrieved that their injuries, pain and suffering have been dismissed as insignificant by the government.’
The Judicial College has previously been responsible for setting general damages in personal injury, with guidelines published annually. That responsibility was effectively taken over by ministers through the Civil Liability Act. Proposed tariffs set compensation for an injury lasting up to three months at £225, down from the potential current award of £2,250. Injuries lasting up to six months are worth £450 (an 85% reduction), with injuries up to nine months set at £765, a fall of 78%.
MASS points out the Judicial College guidelines consider the full range of individual circumstances of the injured person – for example the full range of suffering, the length and severity of symptoms and the impact on ability to work, hobbies and lifestyle.
Since the Civil Liability Act 2018, the number of RTA claims consistently fallen in each quarter and took a massive nosedive during the first lockdown this year.