Whiplash Reforms Delayed

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02 March, 2020

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland has provided an update on the next steps for the Whiplash Reform Programme. As anticipated, he has confirmed that the Government has decided that more time is needed to make sure the Whiplash Reform Programme is ready for implementation and as a result the measures will not be introduced in April 2020 as planned. In particular, he points to the need to work with the Civil Procedure Rules Committee to put in place the supporting rules and pre-action protocol. The statutory instrument also needs to be laid before Parliament to introduce the tariff of damages for whiplash injuries.

The Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP reiterates in his written statement that the Government remains firmly committed to "implementing measures to tackle the high number and cost of whiplash claims" and is now working towards implementation on 1st August 2020.

Under the proposed reforms, a fixed tariff of damages will be introduced for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries sustained in a road traffic accident, as well as a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report. In addition, the small claims track limit for road traffic related claims will be increased to £5,000.

The written statement also confirmed:

  • the new Official Injury Claim Service (the Service) will provide a "simple, user-friendly and efficient online route" for those bringing claims following road traffic accidents which will allow users to settle small claims for personal injury without the need for legal representation or to go to court;
  • a customer contact centre will be available to support all customers "through the journey";
  • ADR will no longer be part of the online Service. ADR would have facilitated liability and quantum claims to be adjudicated. However, a practicable solution could not be found, and therefore the government confirms that access to justice will be ensured by "developing bespoke processes to enable litigants to go to court to establish liability";
  • the increase in the small claims track limit will not apply to "vulnerable road-users", for example, motor-cyclists, cyclists and pedestrians (such users will also not be subject to the whiplash tariff provisions); and
  • the increase in the small claims track limit will not apply to children or protected parties.

Forbes comment

The postponement of the Whiplash Reform Programme seemed almost inevitable, and it is now hoped that the Government will be able to finalise the rules and pre-action protocol in advance of the revised implementation date on 1 August 2020.

It is also worth noting that as the small claims limit will not initially apply to children and protected parties, they will not therefore be subject to the new pre-action protocol and will not have access to the online Service. The normal track for claims by children and protected parties which include a whiplash injury, will be the fast track. Claimants will be able to instruct a legal representative who can obtain a medical report on their behalf and the costs of legal representation will remain recoverable. This will allow relevant claimants to obtain a medical report before they can settle their claim.

We will be issuing further updates as and when further information becomes available.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/implementation-of-the-whiplash-reform-programme

For more information contact Sarah Wilkinson in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 662831. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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