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Changes in whiplash reform means potential cheaper insurance payments

The Ministry of Justice decided in November, after months of deliberating that they would be introducing a consultation on reforms to whiplash insurance claim. The move was welcomed by a number of insurance firms and those working in the industry, however it has been met with opposition by those who say it will deter people with legitimate claims from being able to make a claim.

Good or bad news for clients?

After the paper was published in April 2017, DAS Law have published a white paper which explores the outcomes that those looking to make whiplash claims might face. 

The paper states that there is a ‘clear desire to reduce the level of compensation paid to those injured in motor accidents’, adding that the majority of people who have been injured in an accident will be affected. 

They say that injured people will be affected not only because of the compensation, but because the threshold an injured party to be able to make a claim will stand at £5,000. This means that legal costs will not be provided for claims of less than £5,000, meaning injured parties will have to pay for their own legal representation at best.

Insurance companies claim that the changes are a good thing, saying that their introduction will see a reduction in insurance payments for all their customers. This has been opposed by a number of groups who say that the changes will see legitimate claims being quashed. They say that those who have been legitimately injured will have to pay for their own legal representation, represent themselves in court, or just give up their case completely.

The insurance firms claim that those in the U.K. pay higher rates due to the number of false whiplash claims that are made. This means, they say, that customers should expect to see reductions in their monthly payments now the legislation has been changed.

Changes in legislation

  • Small claims track limit. This increase sees the small claims track limit increase to £5,000. This means that any claims for injuries which sit below £5,000 will not be able to claim back legal costs. Those who have experienced whiplash at work, or after a traffic accident and have claims of less than £5,000 will now have to represent themselves, pay their own legal fees, or decide not to make a claim.

Those who choose to make a claim by themselves will be tasked with the daunting task of facing a big insurance company and their legal team without the help of a legal professional. It will also mean that they will have to learn the law in depth to stand a chance of getting compensation. The author of the white paper which was published by DALS Law, Samantha brown, said that anyone who suffers from injury may now be reluctant to fight the case because of these factors.

  • Change in liability. Claims which are disputed will become a small claims track process. If the claim is disputed, it will now become the responsibility of the injured party to collect any relevant evidence to support their case. This means that the injured party will be in charge of collecting evidence such as witness statements, engineering evidence or police reports. While witness statements are free to collect, procuring police reports or engineering evidence will come at a cost to the injured party.

Once the injured party has collected any supporting evidence, they will then have to pay for the costs that come with issuing court proceedings. Cases which are worth less than £5,000 will have to pay a fee of up to £205. A hearing fee of up to £355 must be paid for a case which goes further.

  • Change in medical evidence. Medical reports must be provided by an injured party as evidence that they suffered any injury. The £216 fee was usually covered by an injured party’s legal representatives, but this fee must now be paid by anyone making a claim of less than £5,000

Ms Brown said that one medical report may not be sufficient evidence in some case. She says that it may not sufficiently provide a ‘final prognosis’. This means that claimants will be tasked with obtaining more documents to support their claims. This means getting further medical reports, or obtaining diagnostics including X-rays and MRI scans. This would mean another £216 fee to obtain a second report which provides sufficient back up to the first one.

  • Support which is offered to injured parties. The reforms were first introduced in November, and Martin Miliner, the claims director at LV General Insurance spoke at the time about how he welcomed the introduction of changes to legislation. He spoke of the old system being unfair for clients who were making legitimate claims, saying that they were being forced to pay unnecessarily for those who were falsely claiming for whiplash. He described the U.K. as being known as the ‘whiplash capital of the world’. The proposals, he said, would be a welcome change, benefitting motorists and businesses who were honest. He called for the Government to ensure that discussions took place quickly, and that the proposals were introduced as soon as possible, in order for customers to see reductions in their insurance payments sooner, rather than later.

Miliner was not alone in backing the calls for change. Other general insurers agreed with his sentiments, and backed calls for the measurements to be brought in immediately to help save customers money.

The Aviva claims director, Robs Townend, said that he welcomed the news, and that the changes were beneficial not only to insurance firms like his, but to consumers. He spoke of how consumers are ‘fed up’ of people committing fraud, and bogus calls of whiplash. He said that consumers pay for these false claims in their premiums, and it was time for it to end. He finished by saying: ‘These proposals bring us a step closer to saying good riddance to the ‘whip-cash’ merry-go-round that is the bedrock of the UK’s compensation culture’.

Contact Thorley Stephenson Personal Injury Lawyers, Edinburgh

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