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06 February, 2018

Lord Keen of Elie QC has appeared before the House of Commons Justice committee to set out the government's agenda for personal injury reforms.

This one off session was intended to explain:

  • the rationale and evidence supporting the Government's proposals for raising the small claims limit;
  • the potential impact of raising the limit, including for employer liability/public liability claims, and the implications for the judiciary and court staff;
  • the Government's progress in working towards implementation of the reforms, and its proposals for ensuring the needs of claimants are met;
  • The implications of the reforms for the BTE insurance market and the potential impact on the claims management sector.

During the hearing, Lord Keen confirmed the government's intention to increase the small claims limit from £1000 to £5000 for RTA claims and £2000 for all other personal injury claims.

Lord Keen accepted that there would inevitably be an increase in litigants in persons but said that the process would be adapted to make the system more "user friendly" and that Judges would also need to be more proactive and where necessary move more complex cases to the fast track. Lord Keen suggested that litigants in person might also turn to the Citizen Advice Bureau ("CAB") for assistance.

Lord Keen was unsure of the number of fraudulent claims made annually but took the view that the overall number of personal injury claims will fall once people 'pause and think about the merits of their claim before they make it'.

The Justice Minister also confirmed that the planned reforms would increase the role of CMCs in the personal injury market, which he described as "extremely beneficial" before commenting "of course we are concerned about the behaviour of some rogue CMCs and we are increasing regulation in this area, but there is no reason to suggest that substituting some CMCs for BTE insurance is a bad thing."

Forbes comment

Whilst it was widely assumed that the government was all consumed with Brexit, it appears that it is still their intention to press ahead with the proposed PI reforms "in due course". Lord Keen's seemingly blasé attitude to the possible impact of the reforms is however somewhat concerning. It is unlikely that the CAB has the resources to support the volume of litigants potentially created by the reforms and Lord Keen admitted during the session that the CAB had not been approached to discuss the issue. The increased involvement of CMCs in the arena also needs to be fully considered.

Mrs Justice Simler and His Honour Judge Nigel Bird have been tasked with considering the practical steps to be taken to prepare for the impact of the reforms on the courts, which are to include a re-designed version of the PI portal for claims up to £5000 and a simplified pre-action protocol.

A report from the Justice Committee on the impact of the reforms is expected within the next few months.

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