Government Whiplash Reforms Will 'Line Insurer’s Pockets'

  • 79% would prefer status quo than £35 cut in insurance premium but much lower damages if injured in accident
  • Most would not know how to bring their own case without legal support
  • Only 16% support the heavy cut in compensation levels proposed by the Civil Liability Bill

Four in five motorists have no confidence that their insurer will cut premiums after saving more than £1bn under government plans to restrict the rights of injured people to sue, research commissioned by First4Lawyers, the fastest-growing marketing collective in the UK, has found.

A similar number would not know what to do if the reforms forced them to pursue a personal injury (PI) claim on their own.

In any case, the survey by YouGov found that consumers would rather retain the current levels of compensation for the victims of another driver’s negligence than see their insurance premiums go down.

The survey of 2,080 people is part of the First4Lawyers campaign, called Repair The Right Body, urging members of the public to tell their MPs that the government’s plans to reform personal injury claims are wrong to prioritise repairing cars over repairing people.

Under the Civil Liability Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, compensation for injuries suffered by people in motor accidents will be heavily curtailed, but compensation for the cost of repairing their cars will not be.

A key justification for the reforms is that insurers will return the massive savings they will make – some £1.2bn, according to government estimates – to motorists through lower insurance premiums of around £35. There will be no clear mechanism in place to monitor this, however, and almost 80% felt that these savings wouldn’t be passed on.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of those surveyed (82%) had not heard about the reforms contained in the Bill, and the linked change that would see the upper limit for road traffic injury cases allocated to the Small Claims Court (SCC) increased from £1,000 to £5,000. This would capture the vast majority of road traffic claims.

Unlike in other courts, claimants in the SCC are unable to recover their lawyer’s fee from the other side in the event of winning, making it economically difficult for both consumers and lawyers to pursue. The government has said claimants should be able to deal with these claims on their own, despite the many detailed legal issues they can throw up.

The survey shows that many people would be discouraged from taking action at all if they had to act for themselves. Some 78% said they would not know how to bring a claim for damages without legal support.

The government is also introducing a tariff to replace judicial guidelines on how much compensation a whiplash victim should receive, which would reduce the figures significantly. For the lowest grade of injury – lasting up to three months – a victim would receive £235 in future, compared to £1,750 now. Only 16% of respondents supported such a cut in compensation levels.

So, asked if they would rather the current situation or £35 off their insurance and less compensation if they suffered a motor accident that was not their fault, a convincing 79% preferred things how they are today.

Andy Kay, director of operations at First4Lawyers, says: “It is not too late for the government to listen. Consumers recognise that the changes it is making will benefit only insurance companies – whose profits are already eye-watering enough – while they lose out at every turn.

“Ministers have their priorities shamefully wrong, to the extent that damaged cars will be much better off than damaged people. This is fundamentally wrong, which is why we are campaigning against the changes.”

As part of the Repair The Right Body campaign, First4Lawyers has produced an animation that illustrates how an ordinary person will suffer and left to fend for themselves against insurance companies that will just see their profits go up as a result.

It tells the tale of Jane, who suffers painful injuries as a result of an accident caused by a ‘boy racer’ but is left totally exposed by the government’s reforms.


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