George Osborne's controversial proposals to shake up the personal injury claims process are likely to come into force at the same time in 2017, Ministry of Justice officials have suggested.
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) today met the MoJ to discuss proposals to increase the limit from £1,000 to £5,000.
The plan was announced by George Osborne last month as part of his spending review, alongside a ban on general damages for minor soft tissue claims. The chancellor gave few details about implementation at the time.
At today's meeting the MoJ confirmed to MASS that a consultation document is likely to be published in March and will be for six to 12 weeks. The outcome of the meeting was revealed to MASS members through a note sent this afternoon.
The consultation will ask not about the principle of the changes, but on their implementation, including whether the threshold should apply to all personal injury claims or just to whiplash.
The whiplash damages change is likely to be inserted into a bill to go before parliament. Depending on its passage through the House of Commons and House of Lords, this is expected to come into force in April or October 2017.
MASS said the MoJ confirmed the small claims limit increase could in theory come earlier, but officials consider it is likely to be introduced at the same time as the whiplash change.
Groups such as MASS and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers will have to decide whether to oppose the proposals in full or to accept a compromised smaller increase in the small claims limit.
It is understood that a levy on members may be considered as part of the campaign, with some discussions about whether a judicial review challenge may be possible.
The government has said it expects reforms to save the insurance industry £1bn a year. Insurers have promised to pass on savings to motorists by taking at least £40 off premiums.