Injury lawyers have welcomed a judge’s rejection of a callous attempt by the insurance industry to continue to avoid paying full compensation to seriously injured people.
“For far too long, people with life-long and life-altering injuries have faced running out of compensation, or had to risk their compensation on uncertain investments to try to make up the shortfall because insurers do not have to pay the full amount needed,” said Neil Sugarman, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
A discount is applied to compensation payments to offset the accumulation of interest (net of income tax and inflation) from the investment of the compensation, such as in a bank or building society. The rate has not been reviewed or altered since 2001 when interest rates were much higher than in recent years. Under the current rate, too much is deducted from compensation payments meaning severely injured people have lost millions of pounds.
“Insurers have been getting away with undercompensating vulnerable injured people for years,” said Mr Sugarman.
Today the Administrative Court has refused an application by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for an injunction against the Lord Chancellor’s review of the discount rate for personal injury, which is due by 31 January. Permission for a judicial review has also been denied.
But an element of uncertainty remains for claimants as the ABI is to seek leave to appeal. The Lord Chancellor is still scheduled to make her statement on the discount rate on 31 January, unless the Court of Appeal grants the ABI permission for its judicial review and grants a stay on the Lord Chancellor’s announcement.
“This desperate attempt to stall the review shows that the insurance industry would rather see seriously injured people face hardship than honour its responsibility to pay full and fair compensation,” said Mr Sugarman.
“The Administrative Court’s decision today, to allow the Lord Chancellor to continue with her already long-overdue discount rate review, is the correct one,” he went on.
“We hope that the Lord Chancellor makes the correct decision and reduces the discount rate substantially. In fact this is the only acceptable option. An increase in the rate is unthinkable.”
APIL took the unusual step of launching legal action against the Lord Chancellor late last year after successive Governments failed to review the discount rate to reflect changes in the economy.
Calculations by APIL put the correct rate at between -0.5 per cent and -1.0 per cent, based on gilt markets on 31 October 2016.