Hung Parliament – Impact on personal injury reform
I’ve blogged before about the proposed and, in my view, very concerning, proposals to radically change personal injury and medical negligence law.
To recap, some of the proposed changes originally announced by David Cameron’s government, following pressure from the insurance industry lobby were:
1. Banning whiplash claims or severely limiting the amount of compensation payable, including genuine cases;
2. Making it much harder to use a solicitor for lower value non-road traffic accident injuries, irrespective of whether the insurance company who is defending the claim appoint their own lawyer to fight the case; and
3. Perhaps most concerning of all, radically reducing the amount medical negligence solicitors are paid, which is likely to lead to genuine medical negligence injuries not being economically viable, and reduced access to justice for those who often need it the most.
George Osborne’s original announcement came as a significant shock to the profession; there appeared no public call for these changes leaving many lawyers to believe the Government was acting under pressure from the insurance companies who pay the compensation recovered. Of course, less compensation paid out means increased profits for the insurance industry.
With no genuine consultation period or opportunity for discussion, in 2016 the changes seemed an imminent certainty. Then, two things happened:
1. Brexit and the departure of David Cameron and George Osborne, who appeared to be the driving force behind the changes. Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, seemed to have little to say about the proposed changes and some wondered whether too much of her government’s time would be devoted to the mammoth task that is Brexit rather than bringing the changes in.
2. The Prime Minister’s decision to call a snap election and the unexpected result of a hung parliament. The Conservative party have been left trying to form a minority government. Of course, the proposed changes, like all new laws, have to be voted in by the MPs in the House of Commons. If Labour and the other opposition parties don’t approve of the changes, and their MPs choose to vote against them, the Government might struggle to pass them.
However, if there is one thing every solicitor knows: never ever underestimate the resolve of an insurance company that stands to make tremendous profits from changes to the law.
Even today, being the results day, the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, who speak for the insurance industry, have already called for the Government not “to lose sight on other issues” i.e. irrespective of the massive challenges Britain now faces, these unnecessary, harmful and uncalled for changes should still take centre focus. They also continue to pressure recent additional changes that would significantly reduce the amount of compensation severely injured people receive.
Why should the Government give any time whatsoever to changes no actual member of the public ever called for when the country faces such tremendous challenge? Should reducing access to justice really be our priority at present (or ever…)?
Many in the profession are sceptical as to whether the proposed changes will be shelved; I will be keeping a close eye on things but for now we continue on in uncertain times.
Remember to check back regularly for more in this ongoing saga.
Aston Knight Solicitors are a specialist firm of solicitors based in Bury, Greater Manchester. For a free initial consultation please telephone 0161 447 9191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.