PM’s ‘summit’ on whiplash excludes legal profession

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Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of sidelining the legal profession in talks about dealing with whiplash cases.

Cameron met with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and leading insurance firms on Tuesday for a much-publicised ‘summit’ over the rising cost of car insurance.

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The prime minister made it clear that a ‘damaging compensation culture’ has been responsible for pushing up premiums and said he wanted to reduce the 1,500 daily whiplash claims.

But despite a letter from the Law Society in January calling for engagement with the profession, only insurers and government ministers attended the summit.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘We wrote to the prime minister over a month ago, but it is disappointing that our offer to work with him and his government in addressing public concerns over whiplash claims has been ignored.

‘There are many options to address, from government, opposition, and others, which need proper consideration. Government should not be limiting itself to tea and cakes with one partisan set of stakeholders - the insurers.’

In a press notice ahead of the meeting, Downing Street said whiplash is costing the insurance industry £2bn a year, a figure quoted directly from the ABI.

Following the meeting, Cameron said the insurance industry had committed to adjust premiums to reflect any reductions in legal costs created through the Jackson reforms of civil litigation.

The government vowed to reduce the current £1,200 fee that lawyers can earn from small value personal injury claims - with insurers again promising to pass savings onto customers.

On whiplash, there are plans to raise the threshold for accidents through a minimum speed requirement and to require improved medical evidence of injuries following an accident. However, there were no details released, with Downing Street simply predicting progress ‘in the coming months’.

Cameron added: ‘The insurance industry plays such an important part in all our lives - it is there to help when we are at our most vulnerable and at greatest need. But I want to ensure that we all do what we can to help people through this difficult time.’

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