Claimant representatives have expressed relief at the government’s announcement that it is not planning further whiplash reforms for the time being.
More than five years since the consultation that led to the Civil Liability Act 2018 closed, the Ministry of Justice yesterday unexpectedly issued its response to the issues raised in part 2 of the consultation that it had not addressed, including areas like credit hire and rehabilitation.
This said no further action would be taken, although in some areas it hinted that they were not off the table.
Neil McKinley, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: “Several proposals in this section of the consultation were in reaction to behaviours which are perceived to be indicative of fraud. They were disproportionate and unfair to claimants, the vast majority of whom are genuinely injured people.
“The suggestion that recoverability of disbursements should be restricted was particularly heavy-handed and would only serve to put undue financial drains on people who are representing themselves in the new system.
“It is only sensible that these measures have been dropped.”
The notion of penalising claimants who did not make their claim or seek medical help within a certain period of time would have had negative consequences, Mr McKinley added.
There were often legitimate reasons for why they would delay, he said. “Sometimes the extent of the injury needs time to unfold, or the injured person might initially try to ‘brave it out’ before seeking treatment.”
Sue Brown, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, said: “Given the length of time that has passed and the ongoing issues with an entirely new claims process, it is welcome that the government is not going ahead with new proposals that may not be appropriate or relevant at this time.
“We continue to support the MoJ’s desire to see resolution of the issues – raised in part 2 – being reached by working with stakeholders rather than by imposing measures on the industry.”
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said: “Quite why this response took five years to emerge is anyone’s guess, though the serious challenges officials are currently experiencing with the operation of the new claims portal may go some way to explaining the delay.
“Rightly, ministers are now looking to the wider industry to keep its own respective houses in order, and we look forward to further work with colleagues on issues such as rehabilitation, alternative dispute resolution and credit hire.”
Mr Maxwell Scott cautioned, however, that there was still a need for action through greater self-regulation and cross-industry engagement “as there are numerous areas of unnecessary friction, uncertainty and poor engagement, which creates adverse outcomes for consumers and those who operate in those markets”.
Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, said it would have been “madness” to force any more change upon the sector as it was dealing with “the fallout from the Official Injury Claims portal, which has been blighted by problems since its launch in May”.
He noted that the response hinted that more reforms could be made further down the track.
“The Ministry of Justice should focus on fixing a broken system before it attempts any more ill-advised changes and given past failures should commit to meaningful consultation with the industry before it does.”
Peter Gomes, interim chief executive of The CHO – which represents credit hire organisations – said the outcome was “very welcome news” for its members.
“Credit hire companies are facing significant challenges as a result of the pandemic, Brexit and associated supply chain issues, and further market intervention from the government at this time would have been a serious concern, especially as the while claims industry continues to grapple with the most recent set of reforms and have further changes to absorb with regard to reform to the fixed recoverable costs regime.”
His predecessor Kirsty McKno, now managing director of Cogent Hire, said she was “convinced that cross-industry engagement is the way forward”.
“Self-regulation through co-operation creates far better outcomes for stakeholders; including customers.
“Now, we need to work together across the motor claims sector, from insurers to the whole of the supply chain, to make sure that government confidence in our ability to manage our own affairs is not undermined.”