Parliament approved the whiplash reforms in 2018 and they are scheduled to take effect in April 2020, but some are asking for a delay to properly implement the changes.
The reform measures were introduced as a way of reducing fraudulent so called “whiplash” injury claims from road traffic accidents. They are part of the wider Civil Liability Act, which should see the small claims limit increase to £5,000, meaning legal costs cannot be recovered. This in theory should eliminate most of the minor soft tissue or whiplash claims from the current Ministry of Justice portal claims process and law firms helping claimants through their compensation claim. The injured party will need to make their own claim as “Litigants in Person”. A new online system is therefore required to facilitate these claims quickly and simply.
The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) were tasked with building and developing the system and they have now confirmed that in November they completed the first of two testing phases. The exact details of these are not clear, but they have reported to the Law Gazette “Feedback from consumer testing so far has been very positive and coupled with insights from accessibility testing, the results are helping us identify areas we can improve ahead of the service launch.”
The final stage of testing is expected to take place this month. The MIB has pushed on with the development of the online system despite the uncertainty about the unspecified tariff levels for compensation and unresolved civil procedure rule changes.
Gordon Dalyell, President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) told the Financial Times that the portal must be delayed until there are guarantees about its performance. He added “The reforms raise real issues in terms of access to justice. To expect lay people to become used to complex software is a challenge.”
James Dalton, Director of General Insurance at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) does not agree that delaying the introduction of the portal would benefit car insurance policyholders. He said “The longer it takes to come in, the longer it will be before customers reap the benefits of reform.”
Charlotte Waller, Solicitor at Pryers Solicitors commented that “It is a fine line between combatting fraudulent claims and ensuring genuine claimants get the right access to justice for their injuries. Putting it all on the claimant carries a certain amount of risk, expecting them to provide all the necessary information on a new online system is not necessarily going to work for every person.”
She added “Any new system needs to be thoroughly tested and thought through, rushing a system in without giving people enough information and help on how to use it is destined to fail. Although whiplash is deemed a minor injury, it can impact people’s daily life. We must make sure that those people don’t suffer because of the fear of fraudulent claims.”