The long-anticipated report from a Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry into whiplash claims has declined to approve Government plans to switch whiplash claims of up to £5,000 to the small-claims in County Courts.
The report declares this move would effectively remove legal representation when making claims and that, “access to justice is likely to be impaired, particularly for people who do not feel confident to represent themselves in what will seem to some to be a complex and intimidating process.”
The committee believe that the proposed increase in the small-claims court limit will only encourage fraudulent and exaggerated claims. (Earlier this year the Government described the UK as the ‘whiplash capital of the world’). However the recent report states information provided by the Government shows that the number of whiplash claims has fallen since 2010–11 and is now lower than at any time since at least 2007–08.
The committee agrees with the proposals to improve medical reports accompanying whiplash claims and says the reforms should go further to require claimants to provide more information in support of their claim, such as proof they saw a doctor shortly after their accident. They have also recommended that the Government reduce the time period during which whiplash claims can be made.
Speaking in response to the report, justice minister Helen Grant said, “We have consulted on measures to tackle the issue of bogus whiplash claims, including improving medical diagnosis and ensuring questionable claims can be challenged in court.
“We are grateful for the committee’s work on this issue and will consider their views as we decide on our next steps. We agree with them that people must continue to be able to make genuine claims.”
Peregrine Lavington-head of personal injury at Morrisons Solicitors comments, “The Government’s proposal to switch whiplash claims to the Small Claims Court would mean victims would be at the mercy of unqualified claims managers who would take a percentage of the damages-is this really what the Government wants?”