9th October 2019
9th October 2019
In 2013, Lord Jackson introduced the Whiplash Law Reforms, this was the first step in limiting potential fraudulent claims.
The reforms included stopping the ability of claimant solicitors to recover their success fee (a fee to compensate the risk of ‘no win, no fee’ agreements) from defendant insurers, meaning this fee was only recoverable from claimant damages. He introduced the fixed costs, meaning claimant solicitors were only able to recover on average £500 in costs, his aim was to limit the appeal of fraudulent claims from people looking to make a ‘quick buck’ after a small bump.
Now, when the Civil Liberty Bill is in force there will be even more limits on which cases in which claimant solicitors will be able to assist injured parties. The Bill limits any Road Traffic Accident claims under £5,000 in value to the Small Claim track, meaning the costs recovered are unlikely to be profitable enough for solicitors to provide assistance. Currently this limit is £1,000 in all types of personal injury claim.
With the average whiplash claim being in the region of £2,000 - £3,000 this means the majority of road traffic accident claimants will be unable to seek legal advice in their claim.
The Bill has been delayed currently to April 2020 as the MOJ are introducing a ‘litigant in person portal’. This will be an online portal for an injured person to submit their claim. This idea is of course full of problems in itself, it assumes that the general population will have the knowledge and access to a computer and the internet, again limiting justice for those most vulnerable to potential under settlement of claims. It assumes the general population are able to self-diagnose their injuries and predict when they will recover and how their injuries may affect them in the long run.
It assumes the general population will be aware of everything they are able to incorporate in their claim, for example, I find claimants are generally surprised to learn they are able to claim for care and assistance provided by family members, for telephone calls to insurers, doctors, car hire companies, for travel costs to medical professionals and at what rate they are able to claim.
If the Bill does allow for an independent medical assessment in these cases, it poses the question of how the appropriate medical expert will be sourced and funded, potentially putting more limits on a claimant to potentially fund this cost themselves
Unfortunately, the fundamental belief of access to justice for all is slowly being chipped away and those who can afford to pay privately for expert advice and advocacy will without doubt be in a better position widening the already growing social class gap.