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Blog: Personal injury reform: Back to the dark ages

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Personal injury reform: Back to the dark ages
Deborah Evans | 23 Nov 2016

As Philip Hammond delivers 2016’s autumn statement, we’re dealing with the plans laid out last year by his predecessor. The consultation published last week shows that the Government’s proposed whiplash reforms have changed. Originally, the intention was to scrap compensation for whiplash claims, now there is a ‘middle ground’ position of paying an insultingly low sum of money which bears no relation to the appropriate figure for damages as decided by the courts.

The proposal quite simply strips injured people of rights they have had for hundreds of years. It is an erosion of justice. If someone has, through their own fault, driven their car into you negligently, and you genuinely suffer a painful injury, you have a right to be compensated. The Government intends for an insurer to fix the car, but not the person. Do we now value metal more than flesh and bone?

Compensation is a key element of a civilised society. If it is for a late train no-one bats an eyelid about making a claim. Why then, does being physically injured make you a second class citizen? Why should a ‘minor’ injury lasting for six or nine months be undeserving of compensation, yet the minor inconvenience of a 30 minute train delay deserve immediate redress?

Soft tissue injuries such as whiplash can be debilitating. Picture the casual construction worker who cannot perform the job; the self-employed painter who cannot lift his arm above his shoulder, losing clients and his reputation in the process; the nursery worker who cannot pick up the babies in her care; or the elderly driver who has lost her confidence to drive as a result of the accident, becoming housebound.

But the proposals are not limited to the management of whiplash claims. Behind the populist title, designed to engender public support because of the enduring perception of fraud, there is a proposal that all injury claims up to £5,000 are heard in the small claims court. The small claims court is designed for sorting out problems with faulty fridges - not for hearing sensitive abuse cases, or debating the value of a shoulder dislocated by faulty machinery in the workplace, or for helping the cyclist who broke their collar bone when they were hit by an errant driver.

The worst thing? The fact that injured people, without the support of a lawyer, will have to front all the upfront costs themselves - the court fee, the fees to produce medical records, and the fee for the medical examination. Fees will be hundreds of pounds. The financial hurdle alone will slam the door firmly shut in their face.

Injured people can choose to represent themselves through a complex, difficult and outdated process and cross their fingers that they have done what is required for a good outcome. They could choose to fund advice and assistance from a lawyer out of their own damages - assuming they have sufficient damages to make it viable, or they could choose to give up their claim altogether.

Victims lose out twice - once because they suffer a bodily injury, and then again because their rights to redress and representation are being undermined.

That is no justice at all.

Past blog entries

Scotland sets a UK standard for injured people , 10 May 2018
To penalise patients and their families is not the answer, 02 Feb 2018
2017 in review, 19 Dec 2017
Untangling fact from fiction, 04 Dec 2017
The picture is getting clearer, 01 Aug 2017
Future reform to the bringing of clinical negligence claims?, 26 Jun 2017
There is a cost to caring, but it is a cost worth paying, 28 Feb 2017
Decisions to come in 2017, 06 Jan 2017

About this blog

Deborah Evans

I'm Deborah Evans, APIL's Chief Executive Officer. I shall be using this blog to keep you informed about campaigning and political work carried out by APIL.