Experts have warned that claimants with multiple injuries face a ‘legal no man’s land’ from the new PI regime, just a day after the advent of the new claims system.
The Official Injury Claim website went live yesterday to handle RTA claims under £5,000, at the same time as new tariffs for whiplash injuries come into force.
But there appears to be little or no guidance about claimants who have so-called hybrid claims, where whiplash is diagnosed alongside another injury following an accident. It had been expected that fresh guidance on how to decide damages in these case would be issued last week, but the Ministry of Justice is understood to have decided to let the courts decide on what compensation should be awarded.
Richard Miller, head of justice for the Law Society, said there were already ‘grave concerns’ over the ability of unrepresented claimants to use the portal, which comes with a 64-page guide intended to explain the process. Miller said it was disappointing that the issue of hybrid claims had not been resolved, and that problems will become apparent once people start using the system.
He added: ‘Because the tariffs for whiplash are so much lower than the common law damages, the general injuries (which might include scarring, sprains and minor fractures) will often be what attracts the largest level of compensation.
‘There is no precedent for reducing the compensation for the more serious injury because there are more minor injuries. There is nothing in the legislation that allows for paying something lower than the tariff for whiplash injuries.’
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said the MoJ has been warned for months about the potential problem with hybrid claims but had chosen to launch the new portal without resolving it. He estimated around 130,000 people a year suffer multiple injuries and would find it hard to resolve their claim.
‘Under the Civil Liability Act, valuing hybrid claims is now all but impossible,’ he said. ‘This leaves claimants and their representatives in a legal no-man’s land, uncertain whether or not to accept an offer as they run the risk of serious under-compensation and of justice not being done.’
Many expect that the issue will be resolved in the courts as cases are brought to decide on a lasting and fair solution.
The MoJ has said that courts are not prevented from awarding damages that reflect the combined effects of injuries sustained. It is expected that courts will need to determine how mixed injuries are addressed and judges will be left to resolve cases.