Insurers are seeking to challenge a key ruling on damages for mixed injury cases in the Supreme Court, it emerged today.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it has sought permission to appeal the rulings in Briggs and Rabot that were handed down last month by the Court of Appeal. The trade body is understood to be heartened by the dissenting judgment of master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos and believes there are wider policy grounds at stake that the Supreme Court should consider.
The majority decision of the Court of Appeal agreed with the principle that RTA victims should be compensated separately for whiplash and other injuries, subject to small reductions. The issue had been left unresolved since the government legislated through the Civil Liability Act to impose a tariff on whiplash injuries worth less than £5,000 but not on other bodily injuries. Some 67% of cases in the Official Injury Claim portal are mixed claims for tariff and non-tariff injuries.
The Court of Appeal verdict was greeted with a mixed reception by the claimant sector, some of who were happy that compensation could be paid for different injuries but others who were disappointed by the perceived lack of guidance about how to calculate the final sum.
But the rulings were largely condemned by insurers, which argued that compensation for loss of amenity could effectively be properly paid through the tariff damages alone.
A spokesperson for the ABI said today it was ‘disappointed’ with the court’s decision and wanted the issue tested in the Supreme Court.
They added: ‘[The judgment] risks undermining the intent of the whiplash reforms and opens the door to double counting of injuries. In the face of rising cost pressures, motor insurers are doing all they can to keep prices competitive for customers, but the Court of Appeal decision will only make it harder to keep premiums as low as they otherwise could be.’
If permission is granted to appeal, it is likely that damages payments – as well as any subsequent payment to claimants’ representatives – would be delayed by many more months. Many of the mixed claims in the OIC have been stayed pending the resolution of this issue and lawyers fear the prospect of further stasis.
Matt Currie, chief legal officer at Yorkshire firm Minster Law, said: ‘The failure of the Ministry of Justice in dealing with the issue of valuing multi-site injuries prior to reforms going live caused uncertainty for consumers and delay to many settlements.
‘We had hoped that the Court of Appeal decision would have brought that uncertainty to an end and allowed us to work collaboratively with insurers to identify how we can start delivering outcomes for the customer.’
Currie added that further delays to a significant number of settlements will keep claims on the reserve books of insurers and increase costs to consumers.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said the insurers had missed the chance to ease the backlog of civil claims and instead left thousands of people in ‘legal limbo’.
‘If the Court of Appeal decision is reversed, it will be insurers and shareholders who will win while consumers with multiple injuries lose,’ he added. ‘That seems unfair, unwarranted and unreasonable.’
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