Government reforms whiplash claims but backs down on broader change

Whilst the government has increased the small claims limit for minor personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents (RTAs) to £5,000, it has decided not do the same for other personal injury claims. That limit will rise to only £2,000, in line with inflation.

The government ceded to campaigners, who highlighted the negative impact on Claimants (particularly those injured in the workplace) that increasing the small claims court limit to £5,000 would have.

It means that personal injury claims (other than for RTAs) with compensation values above £2,000 will continue to be made through specialist lawyers.

No win no fee compensation for car accident injuries such as whiplash and minor psychological damage from RTAs will be on a fixed tariff basis, with payments ranging from £225 for an injury expected to last up to 3 months, to a maximum £3,725 for injuries of 24 months’ duration.

These changes are an attempt by the government to crack down on what it believes is a compensation culture epidemic, where exaggerated injury claims are made for financial gain. However, the view of some is that the new measures will prevent those genuinely injured by someone else’s negligence from receiving the legal support and the compensation to which they may be entitled.

During the consultation period for the Prison and Courts Bill, lawyers stated that they believe the new legislation shows a lack of concern for innocent victims of RTAs and that the government is seeking to suppress the right to claim for legitimate injuries

The assertion that insurance premiums for motorists will be reduced as a result of the legislation were also disputed, since expensive motor repairs and raised insurance tax premiums are also major factors in the cost of motor insurance.

The reforms will be implemented from 1st October 2018.

Other changes to how the courts work include:

  • Greater use of virtual hearings in criminal cases
  • Court listings and case results to be published online
  • Introduction of booths in court buildings to allow the public to follow virtual hearings as they take place anywhere in England and Wales

Offenders charged with less serious criminal offences (for example travelling without a valid rail ticket) will be able to plead guilty online and accept their conviction and pay the fine instantly.

Routine tasks will be handled by case officers, allowing more time for judges and magistrates to carry out their work. There will also be more flexible deployment of judges.

By modernising the courts’ system this way and using digital services, businesses will be more easily able to recover money that is owed to them, the Ministry of Justice states.

The Prison and Courts Bill unveiled by Liz Truss, Lord Chancellor, underpins the vision for a justice system that works for everyone.  The aim is for the delivery of swifter and more certain justice for victims, and to remain at the forefront of dispute resolution.

Justice Minister, Sir Oliver Heald said “We want courts that are efficient and fit-for-purpose, with facilities across the entire estate that are modern, user-friendly, and work in favour of our hard-working and dedicated judges and magistrates. We have already made improvements to the experience of court users; cementing our reputation for legal excellence will continue to attract business to the UK.”

Equality and Human Rights Commission report suggests UK justice is “racist”

A recent report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, titled “Healing a divided Britain”, has found that non-white defendants in criminal trials are more likely to be remanded in custody. David Isaac, the chair of the commission, argued in the report’s foreword that the evidence revealed “inequalities experienced by ethnic minority communities” that included […]