February 14, 2018

Whiplash reforms to be introduced in April 2019

The Government has stated its intention to introduce the whiplash reform programme in April 2019.

The Government has stated its intention to introduce the whiplash reform programme in April 2019.

The new timetable was outlined by Ministry of Justice officials in a meeting with the Motor Accidents Solicitors' Society (MASS), Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Law Society this week.

It is perhaps no surprise the initial target implementation date of October 2018 has been pushed back by six months due to the ongoing effect of Brexit dominating the legislative agenda.

MoJ officials have advised the whiplash reforms for road traffic accidents (RTA) claims and increasing the small claims track limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for those claims, will be the principal focus.

The Civil Liability Bill itself has yet to be published, but given the timetable now set out, the publication is expected to be sooner rather than later.

The tariff system is expected to echo many of the proposals contained in the Prisons and Courts Bill, including introducing a tariff system for claims with an injury duration of between 0 and 24 months (to replace the JC Guidelines) and a ban on offers to settle without medical evidence in RTA-related whiplash claims.

Opposition to the whiplash reforms from interested parties remains vocal, and is only likely to increase in light of the April 2019 date. 

Further plans for the increase of the small claims limit for all other personal claims up to £2,000 appear to have been placed on hold by the Government, given they were not mentioned during the Government update.

The whiplash and other personal injury reforms are currently being scrutinised by the Justice Committee and a report is expected to be published in the next few weeks.

Regulations of CMCs

The proposed whiplash reforms should be also considered in context of the Government's intention to transfer the regulation of claims management companies (CMCs) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as part of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill (FGCB)

This is a move broadly welcomed by the personal injury sector as part of efforts to minimise the role of unscrupulous operators.

However, one of the outcomes of the proposed whiplash reforms is likely to be an increase in litigants in person.  This in turn may result in the increase of CMCs and paid McKenzie Friends who will seek to occupy the space vacated by solicitors.

As part of their written submissions to the Government for the FGCB, the ABI called for further control in time over the amount CMCs can charge their customers for handling personal injury claims.

These concerns were also echoed by additional stakeholders who suggested that greater involvement of CMCs in the claims process would result in an increase of fraudulent claims, contrary to what the reforms are aiming to achieve.