The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has criticised the government for delaying a decision on the future of the small claims process.
The Ministry of Justice has yet to produce a response to the consultation, which closed in the summer, on whiplash and the Road Traffic Accident Portal.
Speaking at the Motor Accident Solicitors Society conference on Friday, ABI head of motor and liability James Dalton said the delay was making it ‘incredibly difficult’ to make business plans.
Solicitors and insurers both await a decision on the fixed fees recoverable for work done through the portal. The limit for stage-two work is currently £1,200, but the insurance industry has lobbied for a significant reduction. Interested parties are also waiting on details of a potential panel of independent medical experts and the increase in the small claims limit to £5,000 from £1,000.
Dalton said the government had its ‘foot on the brake’ over whiplash reforms having had consultation responses since May. ‘With these changes the government will take an important step in reforming the claims process,’ he said. ‘To date nothing has materialised and there is now an increasing feeling of frustration at the lack of clarity.’
Dalton told MASS delegates he would welcome further measures to remove general damages for whiplash altogether when there is no evidence of any injury. While admitting that ‘insurer inefficiencies’ drove up costs, he questioned whether lawyers were needed in the small claims process at all.
‘Do claimants need representation at all in RTAs when liability is straightforward? There are rules to make sure unrepresented claimants are treated fairly.’
Earlier in the conference, new MASS chairman Craig Budsworth, partner at north-west firm Glaisyers, used his opening address to promote a new claims code.
The document calls for no compensation awards without a medical, more robust regulation, preventing cold calling and spam texts and better enforcement of data protection enforcement.
‘Continuity is essential so now is not a time to be introducing radical new schemes or sudden changes of course,’ he added. ‘MASS has a strong message and my focus will be making sure it’s heard by the industry, consumers, government, the press and by accident victims.’