House of Commons Library

Civil Liability Bill [HL]: whiplash claims

Published Monday, June 11, 2018

This Commons Library briefing paper deals with the Government's proposals to reduce the number and costs of whiplash claims

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This briefing paper deals with the position in England and Wales.

Background

Against a background of rising motor insurance premiums and the perception (not universally accepted) of the existence of a “compensation culture”, there has been a focus on the incidence of personal injury claims for whiplash injuries (sometimes referred to as soft tissue injury claims), insurance fraud more generally, and the extent to which this has affected the cost of motor insurance.

Reforms to civil litigation procedure and funding were introduced by the Coalition Government, which also developed a whiplash reform programme.

The Government remains concerned about the number and cost of whiplash claims and has consulted on ways to address the issue. It now intends to proceed with a range of reforms aimed at capping whiplash compensation payments and banning settlement of claims without medical evidence.

The Government considers that the reforms would lead to savings of about £1.1bn and expects this to be passed on to motorists, resulting in an average saving per motor insurance premium of £35.   Opponents of the Government’s proposals dispute the figures and consider it unfair that the reforms would reduce the compensation payable to genuine claimants, and leave victims to conduct claims without legal advice.

Civil Liability Bill [HL]

The Civil Liability Bill [HL] contains part of a package of measures intended to introduce the Government’s proposed reforms. This briefing paper deals only with Part 1 of the Bill which would:

  • provide for a tariff of compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash claims. The definition of whiplash injury and the tariff figures would be set in supporting regulations; draft whiplash injury regulations have been published;
  • introduce a regulatory ban on seeking or offering to settle whiplash claims without medical evidence;
  • provide for the Judiciary, in exceptional circumstances, to apply an uplift, of a maximum specified percentage, to the amount of damages payable under the tariff; the cap for exceptional payments would be set in supporting regulations.

Small claims track limit for personal injury claims to be increased

As part of its package of reforms, the Government intends to raise the small claims track limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims, and to £2,000 for other personal injury claims. This would bring many more claims within a regime where legal costs are not usually awarded to the successful party. This proposal does not form part of the Bill and would be achieved by secondary legislation (effecting a change to the Civil Procedure Rules). Further information is provided in another Library briefing paper: Small claims for personal injuries including whiplash.

Reaction to the Government’s proposed reforms

The reaction from interested parties has been mixed. In general, lawyers’ groups, including the Law Society and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, are among those who have raised concerns about the Government’s proposals, while the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has welcomed the proposed reforms.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8335

Author: Catherine Fairbairn

Topics: Civil law, Courts, Legal profession, Personal injury, Small claims

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