In addition to expressing the intention to raise the small-claims limit for personal injury claims to £5,000, chancellor George Osborne in his autumn statement sets out proposed measures to end the right to ‘… cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries’, referring elsewhere to the cost of ‘false’ claims.
The implication is that these injuries are fictitious, whereas those of us dealing first hand with our clients know that they can frequently be very painful and intrusive. To attempt to deny entitlement to compensation for them represents a flagrant attempt by the government, no doubt at the behest of the insurance lobby, to deny access to justice for those affected.
There is, of course, no doubt that the effects of ‘whiplash’ result in actionable injuries, and it is surprising to say the least that an attempt is being made to categorise them in a way that will remove the entitlement of victims to general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
Why on earth should a person who has suffered a significant injury be denied a conventional head of claim simply because it does not suit insurers? The effect of the changes would at least mean that insurers would not need to resort to frequently employed tactics in their armoury, such as pre-med offers, because the government now intends to eradicate the need for them.
The argument that insurance premiums will fall is unconvincing, and even if there were some validity to it surely this commercial imperative is not sufficient to deny access to justice.
In any event, is it more likely that at least a proportion of any savings would be directed to increased promotional activities. The Law Society, APIL and others should robustly oppose these misconceived proposals.
Alan Bacon, director and head of personal injury and clinical negligence, BTMK Solicitors, Southend-on-Sea