Liz Truss has made the closure of some firms inevitable, but it could have been worse.
So now we know: the government has not killed the personal injury sector, but it has hacked off the arms and legs. There will be understandable relief the lord chancellor Liz Truss has backed off from some of the most fatal aspects of proposals for the industry.
You might even say claimant lawyers could allow themselves a smile at today’s announcement that the small claims limit will rise to £5,000 only for whiplash cases.
Increasing the limit to £2,000 for other claims is palatable – even if the rise is slightly above the rate of inflation.
The original proposals had the potential for such destruction of the sector that there’s a temptation to be grateful for small mercies.
Quite how any of this removes the risk of fraud is beyond me. Qualified lawyers will presumably vacate whiplash claims, leaving the way open for claims farmers who can afford to work on the sort of margins allowed by a tariff system for compensation. You think this will stop your phone vibrating with another compensation offer?
Truss threatened lawyers with starvation: this could have been worse
The idea of variable rules for different categories of personal injury means the law is now inconsistent: suffer a whiplash injury in a car crash where your passenger breaks a wrist, and the claims will be handled under totally different rules.
PI firms will close and consolidate, staff doing an honest and decent job will be put out of work, some claimants will inevitably miss out on compensation they are due.
Still, given what George Osborne pledged in the autumn of 2015 and what Truss appeared to be headed for last year, this is not the worst outcome possible.
Truss threatened lawyers with starvation: now they can thank her when she fills their begging bowl with gruel. It might not be much, but it could have been worse.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor