The government has, for once, satisfied the legal sector by keeping minor personal injury cases out of the small claims court, according to the APIL CEO, Deborah Evans.
Personal injury solicitors were flabbergasted when the Government first considered routing personal injury claims (up to the value of £5,000) through the small claims courts.
On the one hand, there was concern that the setting wasn’t appropriate. The other major concern was – and remains – that the small claims courts are arenas where insurance companies are the lions. Personal injury victims would have been the metaphorical lambs to the slaughter.
How many victims would voluntarily pit their wits against such animals without a vast and expensive armoury? Touché.
The argument against Minor Personal Injury Cases going through small claims courts
The APIL, for its part, outlined these pitfalls (and others) in its response to the Government’s proposal.
Above all else, the fear was that genuine injury victims would be dissuaded from pursuing their claim. Conversely, fraudsters with nothing to lose would carry on regardless.
This situation would have developed into the antithesis of what the Government was trying to achieve by considering the small claims courts as an option. Namely, to protect and encourage genuine whiplash victims, yet identify fraudulent claimants. And, of course, to deter the unscrupulous claims management firms that chose represent them.
Thankfully, it has realised this and is now introducing steps that truly filter out future fraudsters and vindicate viable victims’ claims.
What is the Government doing about injury claims instead?
There are three main criteria in the Government’s new proposal:
- improve the quality of medical evidence for whiplash and soft tissue injury claims
- give PI lawyers access to insurers’ information at the start of the claim process (to help wheedle out spurious claims)
- ask the insurance industry to collate ‘robust’ data about whiplash and soft tissue injuries
All three steps will (theoretically) help:
“eliminate fraudulent claims and detect exaggeration in one [fell] swoop”
Great start, but still work to be done!
There are pros and cons, as with any ground-breaking proposition of this nature. One of each stand out like the moon against a cloudless night sky.
The major concern is that, whilst new guidelines for preparing medical evidence for whiplash claims will be issued, such evidence doesn’t always get to court.
Many “victims” will be offered an out-of-court settlement figure. If the claims firm is in anyway suspicious of the “injury”, they may suggest the client accepts the settlement figure.
In such cases, the extra vigilance collecting the medical data will be unwarranted and costly.
Conversely, the data the insurance companies collect could potentially promote positivity on two counts. It could not only help provide a truer picture of the whiplash landscape, but also be forwarded to the Highways Agency to help make the UK’s road safer.
Overall, these are extremely positive noises from the Government. However, it will be how these changes to minor personal injury claims’ jurisdiction are implemented that will see their ultimate success or failure.