The Government has confirmed that children and protected parties will be exempt from the small claims track increase for road traffic injury claims for now.
In a letter from Lord Keen to the Justice Committee, it was announced that children and protected parties will not pursue their claims through the new litigants-in-person portal, scheduled to be introduced in April 2020. These claims will effectively remain in the fast track, and will remain subject to the current fixed costs entitlement, which we understand will be calculated on the appropriate tariff figure.
Basis of the exemption?
Infant and protected party settlements cannot be approved without the approval of the Courts. As highlighted in our last update on the whiplash reform programme, little information had been forthcoming on how the new portal for handling whiplash claims would deal with the needs of infant or protected claims.
The Government's announcement is therefore unsurprising. Indeed, this issue had been raised during the debates for the Civil Liability Act in the House of Commons. At the time, the proposed amendments to the Act exempting children and protected parties were rejected.
Lord Keen has alluded to this within his letter by stating that the Government must be able to "consider whether and how the SCT should be extended without being constrained by primary legislation". However, having considered the issues raised, they have concluded that it is "right in principle to limit the SCT increase to non-vulnerable claimants only in the first iteration of the PAP and the platform."
The Government has not placed a timescale on when it expects the small claims changes to be applicable to infant and protected parties, the focus on ensuring that the new system works for those parties who do not require "additional protections provided by the Court" have taken precedent.
Application of the tariffs?
The letter from Lord Keen does not comment on the application of the whiplash tariffs to infant and protected claims.
The draft Whiplash Injury Regulations, published last year, but not yet in force, do not contain a provision that infant or protected claims are to be considered exempt from the tariff.
Therefore, it should be assumed for now that the tariffs (once implemented) will still apply to infant and protected claims, even though the small claims track increase is not applicable for now.
We will continue to provide updates on the progression on the whiplash reforms in due course.