Delay to Whiplash Reforms due to COVID-19
This week the Government announced an update to the whiplash Reform Programme. On the 21st April 2020 Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice) provided an update, in a statement he said:
“The Government remains firmly committed to implementing these measures which are intended to control the number and cost of whiplash claims. Under the Programme, we will increase the small claims track limit for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims to £5,000; as well as introduce a fixed tariff of damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries, and a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report.
The Government indicated on 27 February 2020 that after careful consideration it had decided to implement the whiplash reforms in August 2020. However, it is apparent that the current Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the medical, legal and insurance sectors. While the whiplash reform measures remain important, the Government is committed to acting to ease the disruption and pressures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak where it can.
As a result, the Government has considered representations from key stakeholder groups and agrees that now is not the time to press ahead with significant transformational change to the personal injury sector.
We have therefore decided to delay the implementation of the whiplash reform programme to April 2021. This will enable key sectors of this country’s business to focus their energies on delivering their response to Covid-19, and will allow the Government to focus on delivering key services in the justice area during this difficult time.
The Government will continue to monitor developments in relation to the current pandemic and will, if necessary, make further announcements in regard to the implementation of these important reforms.”
What does this actually mean? This statement simply states that the Government has announced that the Personal Injury Reforms which were due to be implemented in August this year have been postponed to April 2021.
APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) president Gordon Dalyell, released a statement on the APIL website stating that:
“Delay is welcome, but another arbitrary date for these reforms to be implemented is meaningless unless critical issues are addressed.
The new claims portal lacks vital safeguards to ensure injured people are able to gain access to justice. Without alternative dispute resolution the portal will leave unrepresented injured people in a very vulnerable position if liability or the value of the claim is disputed. Injured people will be expected instead to switch to the small claims track, which is simply not designed for these types of disputes. But before this could even be considered a viable solution, issues like the need for explicit permission from the court to allow expert evidence must be resolved.
This is now the third time the deadline has been moved and we are still to see any real progress on these issues. The priority must now be on finding workable solutions which will leave injured people with some hope of justice.”
WHAT ARE THE REFORMS?
The Whiplash Reform Programme will :
- introduce a fixed tariff of damages that a court may award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries sustained in a road traffic accident.
- have a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report.
- the small claims track limit for road traffic-related claims will be increased to £5,000.
- there will be a new online service to provide those affected by road traffic accidents with an opportunity to settle small claims for personal injury without the need for legal representation or to go to court.
You can find out more detail about the reforms here.
WONDERING HOW THE DELAY MIGHT AFFECT YOU?
If you have any queries about how the delay might affect you and your ability to claim, please don’t hesitate to contact our specialist legal team.