In November 2015 the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne announced proposed changes to damages for whiplash injuries which sent shockwaves across the profession. These changes included raising the small claims limit for Personal Injury claims to £5000.00 and to abolish the right to claim any damages for minor whiplash injuries. For the first time in our legal history there would be a non-actionable personal injury.
Following extensive consultation, the plans were adjusted. The rise in the small claims limit to £5000 was limited to road traffic claims – not just those involving whiplash injuries. The limit for other personal injury claims would rise to £2000, broadly in line with inflation since the last increase in 1991 when the limit was set at £1000. Damages for whiplash injuries would be assessed by reference to a fixed tariff. Awards would begin at £235.00. A two year injury would attract damages of just £3910.00. The new system would begin in April 2019 although most of us expected this to be put back to October 2019.
It is no surprise that the proposals have been heavily criticised. This criticism is not limited to personal injury lawyers.
In May 2018, the parliamentary justice select committee questioned the justification for the planned rises in the small claims limit. They suggested an overall increase to £1500.00. The committee also highlighted technical challenges in the introduction of the electronic platform which underpinned much of the government’s thinking. The committee cast doubt on the purported levels of fraudulent activity and the much-vaunted reductions in insurance premiums. They recommended that the process be delayed for a further year.
On 17th July 2018 the Government confirmed that the plans would indeed be delayed to April 2020. The ‘platform’ will be tested from October 2019.
There is not, yet, any suggestion that the plans will be abandoned or changed to any great degree. The delay is good news to claimant practitioners who will have additional time to adjust to the change.