David McWilliam

Partner, Solicitor and Head of Personal Injury & Sports Law

DATE PUBLISHED: 16 May 2016 LAST UPDATED: 29 Nov 2022

Leading personal injury lawyer slams Lord Faulks speech at lawyers conference

At the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) Annual conference in Birmingham on 4th May 2016, Justice Minister Lord Faulks spoke to the conference about the Government’s intention to press ahead with huge reforms to the personal injury sector.

The above statement form the APIL President, Jonathan Wheeler is true and it is absolutely staggering that this is likely to become reality in 2017.

It is about time that the Government started to come clean and tell the general public of their intentions to abolish claims for soft tissue injuries (whiplash) in road traffic accidents and raise the current small claims limit from £1000 to £5000. The may have announced it, but the fact remains that the general public have no idea of these reforms and the impact they will have on them.

The reasons they give are to stop fraud and reduce car insurance premiums. Lord Faulks has said that it would come as a shock to Lawyers but the changes are necessary to help consumers. How will preventing a person injured in a car accident requiring physiotherapy and time off work/loss of earnings help the consumer?

Why then did the costs recoverable for road traffic accident claims get reduced by 60% in July 2013 with the same promise that motor insurance premiums would come down. They have not and are unlikely to do so with these new reforms. Lord Faulks admits that he does not know what had happened to any increased revenue for insurers since those changes came into force. Well that is a staggering comment because they were supposed to be passed onto the consumer then and they have not.

Ask yourself this – when you last renewed your motor insurance, did your quote come down in price? I suspect not.

Lord Faulks says that he is confident that the insurers will pass on the savings to the consumer. They promised to do this in 2013 and did not do so. Motor insurance is of course compulsory, so I don’t see how insurers are going to reduce their premiums. They have a captive market where you have to buy their product.

I wrote to my local MP about the impact of these reforms and I got a response from Lord Faulks himself. He told me “ The Government anticipates savings of £40-50 per average motor insurance policy.” They didn’t do it in 2013 and I cannot for a moment believe that they will do it in 2017, when these reforms are due to come into force.

He also said “ the level of compensation paid for minor whiplash claims is out of all proportion to any genuine injury suffered. Damages will still be available for genuine claimants with more significant injuries…”

Whiplash is a real injury and can be very debilitating. If not treated at an early stage with appropriate physiotherapy, it can have long term effects. It is only the people who have not suffered this type of injury that questions its validity.

On the issue of fraud – if the insurers consider a case to be fraudulent, then defend it. I have never dealt with a fraudulent road traffic injury case in 20 years. Why would I want to if I do not get paid unless I win and recover damages for my injured client.

Why do insurers continue to make pre-medical offers to Claimants – if there is no medical report, how can they make an offer of settlement? This practice is just wrong and should be abolished.

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