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27 October 2013 / legal-blog
A blog article by Jonathan White
The Government has been outspoken about taking action to 'crack down on the compensation culture' in the UK and its response to the consultation on whiplash was eagerly anticipated by many in the insurance and legal industry.
The response, Reducing the number and costs of whiplash claims, which was published last Wednesday, came as a welcome surprise. It is a series of carefully considered recommendations which, for the first time, take the interests of accident victims into account and which recognise the importance of justice in a civilised society.
Despite internal pressure, the Government has decided not to increase the small claims limit. This news is welcome as it will ensure that a claimant will not have to fight for compensation without legal representation. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling correctly recognises that now is not the right time to increase the small claims limit as this will deter access to justice and until they can determine the impact of the wider insurance premium reforms.
While the decision to review the current avalanche of reforms before denying legal representation to hundreds of thousands of people each year is crucial, the Government’s plans around independent medical panels are a real step forward. Any reforms focused on accreditation and quality checks which help to identify and prosecute fraudulent claimants is in the interest of the vast majority of genuine claimants who are often unjustifiably tarred with the same brush as the fraudulent minority. Whilst there is considerable work still to do on the details behind the proposals, there appears to be an industry wide consensus around tackling the problem, despite there being a huge gulf in views as to the extent of fraud.
Despite only referencing documents generated by the insurance industry, the report represents a change in direction by the Ministry of Justice, who for the first time appear to have conducted a genuine consultation and an evidence based approach.
So for now, people injured in road accidents will still be able to claim compensation for genuine neck injuries. However, one has to wonder how long it will take the Government to seek another compensation culture headline, and in doing so, put injured people’s rights in jeopardy.
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