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Why it’s important to #RepairTheRightBody - Qamar Anwar, First4Lawyers

29/05/18. We recently launched a campaign called #RepairTheRightBodywhich urges the PI community to take action against the Civil Liability Bill.

At the centre of the campaign is ‘Jane’, who suffers painful injuries as a result of an accident caused by a ‘boy racer’ but is left totally exposed by the government’s reforms. If you’ve not watched our animation yet, please take a look to see the stark reality for innocent road traffic victims. The message is clear: the government should not be allowed to get away with prioritising repairing damaged cars over the health of injury victims.

The bill, which has just completed committee stage in the House of Lords, would see the compensation paid to someone who suffers neck and back injuries for up to three months, inhibiting their everyday activities, fall to just £235. At present, the average award, recognising the pain and inconvenience of such an injury, is £1,750.

The new tariff goes up in stages, but at each stage the sum is significantly lower than the current level of compensation. For an injury that lasts for a year, for example, what is now an average award of £3,100 will be slashed to £1,250.

However, when it comes to what are called ‘special damages’, such as the cost of repairing a damaged car, there is to be no cap.

Further, by changing the Civil Procedure Rules and classing all road traffic accident claims below £5,000 – which is almost all of them – as small claims, most injured people will have to pursue their cases without legal help, even though they will be up against lawyers instructed by the other side’s insurer.

During the second reading of the bill I was heartened to hear some of the concerns raised by peers in the House. Labour’s justice spokesman Lord Beecham said: “The question arises: why should comparable injuries not attract comparable awards, and comparable recovery of the cost of a claim, whether they are incurred in a road traffic accident or any other accident for which a defendant is deemed liable?”

He also raised multiple questions about where the evidence was to underpin the reform. Something we’ve long been questioning.

Yet Lord Keen, the Ministry of Justice spokesman for the House of Lords, did not change his tune. The debate saw general agreement that action was needed to curb fraudulent or exaggerated claims. Which we of course agree with, but we maintain that innocent road traffic accident victims should not be the ones to suffer as a result of any clampdown.

In fact, a few days later in a letter from Lord Keen to his fellow Lords, he made a bold demand stating an expectation that ‘lawyers will continue to adapt and be fully capable of providing cost-effective services to genuinely injured claimants following the implementation of these reforms’.

This is an area of the legal system that has constantly adapted to reform, and cuts to legal funding. This statement highlighted how truly wide the gap is between those who spend their days fighting for justice for people who need it the most, and those who spend their days discussing it.

The letter also included a concession made by the House of Lords to exempt cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users from the bill which is welcome news, but in reality this is a very small concession, and a fairly predictable one. It’s an easy concession to give to look good, but doesn’t do anything to fundamentally tackle the unjust nature of these reforms. Innocent motor accident victims will still remain penalised and ostracised by the justice system under the proposed terms of the bill.

We feel that we can’t just stand by and quietly let this pass. Talk is cheap and we’re now entering a crucial time if we’re to get the government to row back on this, which is why we have launched our #RepairTheRightBody campaign encouraging consumers to contact their MPs about these unfair reforms.

Look out for the hashtag #RepairTheRightBody across social media and if you haven’t already, visit our campaign pages to find out more about the campaign.

Find out how you can support the campaign and help to stop the unfair changes.

Qamar Anwar
managing director

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