I have never written a blog post as quickly as the one that appeared on 25th November 2015. This followed the former chancellor’s announcement that he intended to increase the small claims limit to £5k and abolish altogether the right to claim damages for whiplash injuries –
The speed and tone of that blog reflected the sense of shock and incredulity. We were being told that there was to be a non actionable injury for the first time in our legal history. George Osborne also promised a £50pa reduction in motor insurance premiums on the back of his reforms.
It has been an equal, and far less painful surprise, to hear today, that the whole package has been shelved…for now.
Whilst there is no promise that they have been abandoned they are certainly no longer imminent. According to The Times, the MOJ have confirmed that new minister, Liz Truss, is more focussed on prison reform –
The response from the ABI is less than enthusiastic which suggests that they feel the reforms will be off the table for some time to come.
It is fair to say that the plans outlined by Osborne were on shaky ground from the start. The whole idea of abolishing any right to damages for whiplash was fanciful. Some injuries caused by whiplash are very serious. Where would the line be drawn? I said at the time that this would require a huge shift in legal thinking and would set an alarming precedent. Most lawyers questioned the basis on which such a measure could be introduced. Maybe the new minster felt that she was left holding a grenade with the pin removed and has got rid of the idea as quickly as possible.
The heralded reductions in motor premiums have become increasingly distant over the last few months –
I don’t think that those who represent victims can relax. Insurers will not change their approach which has yielded considerable fruits over the last few years. They will keep on lobbying and those of us who care about justice for victims cannot rest for a minute.
I also echo who those voices who are calling for co operation between insurers and lawyers. By working together we can take steps to eliminate cold calling, fraud and exaggerated claims that do so much harm to genuine victims. But where the PM has called lawyers ‘vultures’ and the ABI complain about -‘ambulance-chasers laughing all the way to the bank’ this may be some time away. There is much still to do.
In the words of Winstion Churchill - "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.”