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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Wrong Way. Go Back!

During my recent trip to Australia I drove about 1750 kms through Queensland. One thing that was noticeable was the straight speaking road signs such as the above. It would be very difficult to argue that you did not know that you were not supposed to go that way!

There are many sections of the Bruce Highway (yes that is the name) where the road runs for hundreds of miles through sugar cane fields. So how might they identify where a collision took place? The obvious answer is that they relate them to creeks. They appear every few kilometres and are all given wonderfully creative names – Waistcoat Creek, Chinaman Creek, Double Barrel Creek, Goodbye Creek, Scrubby Creek etc. So presumably a letter of claim might say –

‘The Claimant was proceeding along the Bruce Highway close to Itchy Pile Creek when his car was struck from behind by the claimants Camper Van’.

So back to the real world.

We are now one month into the new post Jackson world. The sky has not fallen but we are already hearing of firms who have closed or are intending to close or to make major cuts in response to the devastating reductions to the legal costs that victims can recover from insurers and the scrapping of legal aid for most cases.

In an ideal world we would like to use the government to take notice of the Aussie road sign – ‘Wrong way. Go back.’

But this is unlikely. Even a change of government is unlikely to see an unravelling of the changes. Indeed a former Labour minister has been a vocal champion of the cuts –

Recent comments from Minister Helen Grant are far from encouraging. In a recent statement she acknowledges a period of uncertainty and ‘some pain’ which must break some sort of record for understatement! She also talks about her own experience in practice saying that she became increasingly worried about a ‘compensation culture’. Anybody in practice knows that this so called culture is a myth. One does wonder on which planet she practised law.

Indeed recent official figures indicate a marked decline in the number of claims –

But none of this means that we give up. Anybody representing victims must keep up the volume and bring examples of injustice to the ears of anyone who will listen. One hope is that ordinary people will be more concerned about the changes once they experience their impact. Many have predicted chaos in the courts with unrepresented parties clogging up the system. Politicians themselves are likely to see more constituents at their surgeries and have nowhere to send them.

But the biggest argument in relation to motor claims will be over the much vaunted reduction in premiums. Nobody expects to see them or if they do they are likely to be no more than about 2 or 3%. Hopefully the changes will be seen for what they are – a government offering the heads of victims on a plate to their friends and supporters in the insurance industry.

1 comment:

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