Important changes affecting the personal injury sector today became law with royal assent for two government bills.
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) and Criminal Justice and Courts bills both came into law after several months of parliamentary debate.
The latter of the two brings in a ban on offering inducements for personal injury cases, although a timetable for implementing the change has yet to be revealed.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) has repeatedly called for an end to the practice of law firms offering cash or gifts for injury claims. It has already banned these gifts for claims management companies and the government has predicted a fall in insurance fraud once incentives are removed from the system.
The bill also offers courts the opportunity to strike out a claim if the applicant has been proved to be ‘fundamentally dishonest’, unless doing so would cause substantial injustice.
The wide-ranging legislation also brings in changes to the threshold for granting permission for judicial review – a key battleground during debates over the bill, with the House of Lords twice voting against the government and sending it back to the Commons.
The Ministry of Justice said: ‘Economic growth will be supported by measures to speed up the judicial review process and reduce the number of meritless claims clogging the system.’
Grayling today hailed the SARAH act as a ‘balance to counter the health and safety culture’ to provide reassurance to employers and volunteers that courts will consider the context of a negligent action that caused an accident.
He added: ‘Not only have responsible small businesses been stifled by unnecessary insurance costs and the fear of being sued but volunteers have been deterred from taking part in socially beneficial activities and brave people have been put off from helping someone in trouble.’
The legislation tells judges they must consider if the person being sued was doing something ‘for the benefit of society’, if they had previously been acting in a ‘predominantly responsible way’ or if they were intervening in an emergency.