If you’ve been following my blogs over recent months I’ve been commenting on the wealthy insurance industry’s desires to boost profits by changing laws regarding personal injury, via the current Conservative government.
In my previous blog regarding the hung parliament situation the Government now finds itself in, I speculated on whether the insurance lobby would still be able to force through its changes. Naturally, I wondered whether other issues such as the crippled NHS, future elderly care, Brexit, tuition fees and the consequential reduction in poorer students going to university, might take focus. However, I also warned never to underestimate the resolve of the insurance lobby. After all, if you stood to make millions of pounds increased profits would you give up?!
Well, to the dismay and bafflement of many in the legal profession, the insurance lobby has succeeded in forcing its will onto the public and despite the very many pressing issues the country faces the Queen still found a spot for so-called reform of the personal injury sector.
Oh, and just for good measure the Government has agreed to change the way the reforms will be introduced into a new, speedier law; nice to know the insurance industry won’t have to wait too long now for its profit boost.
Oh, and another point, that £50.00 you were going to get for surrendering hundreds of years’ worth of legal rights? Well that’s now been reduced to £35.00.
A possible £35.00 for your legal rights… …sounds like a deal?
I say “possible £35.00” because last time the insurance industry received a huge profit boost, the premiums were reduced by … £0.00. But, maybe, just maybe on this occasion, you’ll receive some of that £35.00. Hopefully that £35.00 will be some comfort for workers signed off work with injuries with no earnings coming in but who cannot now find no-win-no-fee legal representation.
Fortunately, there was one political party willing to stand up to the insurance lobby.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon of Labour said: ‘The government had an opportunity to ditch their ill-considered whiplash reforms. There is no evidence of any “compensation culture”. History shows that insurers have not passed on savings to motorists. In the last parliament the saving to motorists was £50 and now it’s £35. The Tories are helping their insurance industry friends over helping ordinary people get justice.’
Brett Dixon, the president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the government ‘continues to fire at the wrong target’ and said insurers’ profits have risen since the last major civil justice reforms in 2013.
He added: ‘The government tries to appease motorists but, in reality, their right to redress when they are injured will be diminished in exchange for a promise of lower premiums which will not be kept.’
In times like this I recall the words of Master Yoda in Star Wars: “Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.” For now the insurance lobby are firmly in the driving seat.
By James Winterbottom, Solicitor