A personal injury chief has called for the introduction of compulsory public liability insurance to protect customers of public-facing businesses.

Jonathan Wheeler (pictured), incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), said mandatory insurance would increase safety standards in businesses that deal with the public.

During his keynote speech at the annual APIL conference, Wheeler said the organisation will lobby the next government for legislative change.

Companies are already required to have employer’s liability insurance in all but exceptional circumstances to cover the health and safety of people at work. But in businesses such as tattoo parlours or hair salons, there is no requirement to insure to compensate customers who have been injured through negligence and the response to a claim is often insolvency.

‘Claimants denied redress because a defendant has gone bust without insurance is a real issue,’ said Wheeler. ‘Some rogue business-owners liquidate their companies to avoid paying out, and then set up a new business and carry on trading with impunity. This is morally unacceptable and should be tackled head-on.’

Wheeler, who is a child abuse lawyer, said he will also use his year in office to support the Advocate's Gateway scheme, which promotes awareness of the plight of vulnerable witnesses in court.

‘As officers of the court, I feel it is our duty to ensure that our justice system, whilst remaining robust, is not abusive to those who participate within it.’

Meanwhile, James Dalton, director of general policy at the Association of British Insurers, told the conference that personal injury lawyers are still in denial about levels of fraud in the industry. ‘It is either stunningly naïve or wilfully ignorant to say otherwise: fraud is rampant,’ he said.

Challenged on the cost of motor insurance premiums since the government’s recent reform programme, Dalton added it was ‘rubbish’ to suggest savings were not being passed on to consumers by insurers.