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Apil's Response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

26/11/15. George Osborne said yesterday that the government will consult on ending the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries. In response, Jonathan Wheeler, the president of APIL said:

"In 2012 the insurance industry promised the Government that if reforms to the way whiplash claims are handled were introduced, savings would be passed on to motorists through their premiums. All that has changed since then is that the insurance industry has failed to live up to its own promises. Since 2012 the portal (a streamlined system for dealing with personal injury claims) has been extended, medical reporting for whiplash claims has been completely overhauled, sharing of fraud data has been introduced and solicitors fees have been slashed. Government figures show whiplash claims have fallen by more than a third in the past four years. Yet still insurance premiums have increased.

Only two years ago the Government ruled out increasing the small claims court limit because there were no adequate safeguards to protect genuine claimants. There are still no adequate safeguards. If the small claims court limit is raised to £5,000 all that will happen is that genuine victims of injury will not be able to afford the legal help they need to bring genuine claims and there will be an epidemic of cold calling from claims management companies as they rush to take advantage of vulnerable people who won’t be able to afford legal representation. We need to remember that these are people who have been needlessly injured by the negligence of others. Removing the right to damages for pain and suffering would show a callous indifference to the suffering of people who were needlessly injured by the negligence of others."

Also, the chief executive of APIL, Deborah Evans, wrote:

"Did I miss something? The Chancellor’s Autumn statement…

It came from nowhere and makes a mockery of justice for the injured. I am incensed.

It rides roughshod over everything we are doing to date to improve costs and reduce fraud in whiplash claims.

Medco are looking to accredit 1000 medics in 2016 who may never be needed to do an expert report on soft tissue injuries again. To place these cases in the small claims court removes all checks and balances for fraudulent and spurious claims.

It rides roughshod over the effective system of online dispute resolution that is the Claims Portal - emptying it of the majority of claims, and instead filling up the courts.

It rides roughshod over the basic principle of holding the wrongdoer to account - you could injure someone negligently with no consequences. We would live in a world where you get compensation if your train is half an hour late, but not if someone carelessly crashes into you and leaves you in pain for months.

It rides roughshod over the value of legal advice - lawyers ensure only justified cases proceed, screen out poor cases, and fight so that those injured get the right amount of damages - not too much, not too little. Now those injured will be expected to fight their cases without help or advice, against big insurers.

It is, however, a business opportunity for claims management companies, who can offer to organise a claim on an injured person’s behalf, much like they have for PPI claimants, for a handsome cut. We could have an explosion of unsolicited calls and texts to look forward to.

How does this affect current government reforms to introduce fixed costs in claims against the NHS? Are such claims now also to be directed to the small claims court if they are worth less than £5000?

Big proposals. Big issues. Yet so far, little attention from the media because the proposals are buried under headline grabbing issues. Fundamental reforms sneaking in through the back door. This isn't justice."

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