The decision to postpone reform of the personal injury market has been met with unanimous approval - even from the insurers baying for change.
Interested parties came out yesterday in support of the government’s revised plan to implement the Civil Liability Bill in April 2020 - a year later than originally envisaged. The revised plans were included in the government’s response to the Justice Select Committee’s critical report on the detail and process of reform.
The Law Society said it welcomed the delay and urged the government to use the extra time to consider whether the reforms need another look.
'Increasing the small claims limit would restrict people’s ability to access legal advice while making a claim,' said Society president Christina Blacklaws.
'It is a mistake to equate the value of a claim with its complexity and to conclude that representation is not needed. Personal injury claimants require legal representation to bring claims.'
Most eye-catching was the response of the key insurance lobbyist, the Association of British Insurers. James Dalton, director of general insurance for the ABI, said the committee had been wrong to ‘water down’ the reforms and he was pleased the Ministry of Justice remains committed to an increased £5,000 small claims limit for RTA claims.
But on the timetable, Dalton added: ‘Getting the implementation of these reforms right is absolutely critical if the system is to deliver fairer outcomes for claimants and millions of motorists so it is sensible to delay implementation until April 2020.’
The extra year is designed to give officials more time to create an online platform capable of allowing litigants to make their own claims without legal representation. As well as the new small claims limit removing recoverable costs, the bill includes plans for a tariff of fixed damages at a reduced rate, effectively making it unviable for lawyers to be involved in the claims process.
Campaigners fighting reform may be heartened by the government rowing back on one aspect of their reform agenda - but changing the policy itself remains their ultimate goal.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: ’The Tories are changing the law to make it harder for seriously injured people to get legal help.
‘This is about lining the pockets of insurance companies. They now plan to delay their plans until 2020. That’s not good enough. They should scrap this unfair change altogether.’
Shirley Woolham, chief executive of national personal injury firm Minster Law, said the MoJ has recognised that creating a technology solution to manage RTA claims is ‘no easy task’.
‘It is critical that all sides focus on delivering a good customer outcome that ensures claimants feel the justice system is working for them.’