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Whiplash Recommendations Under Scrutiny At Westminster

Woman in neck brace
13th November 2013

In July 2103, following key consultations, the Transport Select Committee (TSC) published their findings into whiplash injuries, their impact on whiplash claims and the insurance industry. The process, which was chaired by Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, made a number of recommendations aimed at screening out bogus claims, while protecting access to justice for genuine claimants.

Having submitted our own written evidence to the second consultation, Your Legal Friend welcomed the committee’s recommendation for the introduction of an independent board of experienced, medical experts to conduct all future examinations of individual whiplash claimants.

Recommendations not yet answered satisfactorily

In response to the TSC Report, the government recently issued its own Command Paper but the committee noted that a number of recommendations had not yet been answered satisfactorily by the Ministry of Justice.

According to Louise Ellman, “Many of these recommendations have been accepted and we will continue to scrutinise how they are implemented.”

The TSC report was debated in Westminster on November 7th and in advance Ms Ellman wrote to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, asking for a response to those recommendations, which appeared to have not been sufficiently addressed.

Among the provisions being asked of the government are:

  • To provide a breakdown of claims for non-whiplash injuries since 2008-09, and explain the increasing number of claims of this type, even as whiplash claims decrease.
  • To consult on ways of requiring claimants to provide more information in support of a claim, e.g. proof they saw a medical practitioner shortly after an accident or evidence of the impact of the injury.
  • To analyse the impact of the electronic portal on claims management and costs before reconsidering whether to increase thresholds for whiplash claims to be dealt with using the small claims track; and consider ways in which the small claims track could be combined with routine submission of expert evidence.

Small claims track

At the November 7th debate, held at Westminster, Ms Ellman referred to the Government’s early proposal for the majority of whiplash claims, which tend to be up to £5,000, to be dealt with in court by using the small claims track.

Despite strong backing by the insurers, the Committee agreed with the legal opposition to a change, because “many people who use the small claims track would have to represent themselves”, and the TSC thought that “access to justice would be impaired”, compared to full legal representation by insurers. Currently, the Government have accepted those arguments and reject making a change to the present arrangement.

Three year limitation

In response to a question over the argument for reducing the current three year limitation period within which an injury claim can be made by, Ms Ellman stated that although the Committee had recommended a reduced period, “ it appears that the Government response to the consultation and our report rejected that.”

At the conclusion of the session, the ministers present were reminded that when the Committee debate the whiplash claims issue, “ it is important to remember that although we wish to root out fraud, we also want to protect the genuine claimant.”

Further evidence on proposed measures

Currently, the Transport Select Committee is calling for further written evidence on the measures set out by the Government with the intention to, “scrutinise the implementation of independent medical panels” and examine whether there is more the Government could do to reduce the cost and number of exaggerated or fraudulent claims.

Written submissions are to be received by Friday 13 December and the Committee does not intend to hear any further oral evidence but may issue a further report in early 2014.