There is finally movement on the rule changes required to make the whiplash reforms happen, with the new pre-action protocol all but approved last month, it has emerged.
It has not yet been made public though, and time is tight for everything to be finalised and published in time to meet the government’s target of starting the new regime in May.
Newly published minutes of an extraordinary meeting of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) on 22 January show that it recommended that the new Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, approve the draft road traffic accident small claims track pre-action protocol and its annexes, subject to any further comments sent to him by return.
The annexes contain the statement of truth form, standard instructions for use by the compensator requesting a further medical report on the claimant’s behalf, and the non-protocol vehicle costs claim and response documents.
The CPRC also decided to co-opt two district judges on to the sub-committee to assist with the standard directions drafting which was anticipated to form part of the proposed new practice direction.
The draft practice direction and other consequential changes, including revised forms, were then to go before the full CPRC “in due course”.
The committee held a meeting last Friday, which was expected to contain “a significant item” on whiplash but the minutes of which have not yet been published, while the meeting on 5 March is also believed to have whiplash on the agenda.
It has become a common expectation that the market will be given at least 12 weeks from publication of the rules so they can get their systems ready for the reforms to go live.
To meet the May target, that would require a publication date of no later than 8 March – although that would mean going live on 31 May, a bank holiday.
But the government has not stated specifically that it will give 12 weeks. When last month he pushed back the date of implementation from April to May, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland spoke only about “the importance of industry preparedness” and giving it “as much notice as possible” to prepare for the new regime.
The minutes recorded that the impression of the CPRC sub-committee doing the drafting was that the build of the litigant in person portal “so far is impressive, user-friendly and uses clear and accessible language”.
There will be a call centre to support both users and those who want to make a claim but cannot access the portal, called Official Injury Claim, which has been built by the Motor Insurers Bureau for the Ministry of Justice.
The minutes noted that, since taking up office, Sir Geoffrey – a vocal advocate of online justice – had given “renewed direction” to the sub-committee “and this has helped address many of the previous issues”.