Claimant lawyers have pledged to try and mitigate the worst effects of far-reaching personal injury reforms announced by the government as the Gazette went to press.
Lobbyists for the claimant sector appeared to admit defeat in their campaign to dissuade the government from increasing the small claims limit and imposing a tariff system for whiplash damages. The Gazette understands it is unlikely there will be a legal challenge.
But a concerted effort will be made, particularly in the House of Lords, at least to ensure higher tariffs for compensation when the bill becomes law.
The changes will be implemented in October 2018, after parliamentary scrutiny of the Prisons and Courts Bill of which they form part.
Campaigners fear the scope of the legislation, which includes measures on prison reform and online courts, could see civil justice pushed to the periphery.
‘The rates that have been quoted are ridiculous,’ said Andrew Twambley, spokesperson for campaign group Access to Justice. ‘We have quite a lot of support in the Lords and they won’t be hoodwinked by things put out by insurers. It is time to look forward: the campaign has only just begun.’
The government gave an indication of how it expects the changes to affect the legal sector in its response to a petition calling for the reforms to be reconsidered. The Ministry of Justice said the impact on solicitors will depend on a number of factors, including their ability to adapt.
‘The personal injury market has long proven itself to be adaptable and innovative, and it is likely that the industry will continue to provide cost-effective services following the implementation of these reforms,’ the MoJ said. ‘Claimants are not, and would not be, precluded from seeking legal representation in the small claims track if they so wished,’ it added.