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As I’ve blogged upon previously, the insurance industry is presently driving through sweeping reforms to the personal injury sector.

Despite the fact the reforms are still being reviewed by the House of Commons justice committee, the Ministry of Justice has gone ahead and announced a likely implementation date of April 2019 anyway.  It perhaps begs the question why spend public money on a review committee if the changes have been announced as going ahead anyway?!

House of Commons

The proposed changes, which will effectively bar people from seeking legal representation following a road traffic injury, still do not appear to have been subject to any meaningful review or consultation.  The proposed changes represent a dramatic and unprecedented alteration of the justice system by any government as what is effectively being introduced is the elimination of one of the country’s most longstanding and universal legal rights: the ability to sue someone who negligently causes harm.

As I’ve mentioned before, there still appears no evidence of public desire for the intended changes and given how dramatic and unprecedented the proposed move is, I firmly believe the public should be made fully aware – if the Government is able to extinguish one ancient legal right following pressure from the wealthy insurance industry lobby then a dangerous precedent may then be set.

In fact, ministers have already agreed that further reforms will be introduced, albeit in stages and not immediately, one of them likely to be an extension of these reforms affecting individuals seeking representation following an injury at work and/or public liability claims.

The Motor Accidents Solicitors’ Society has pointed out there are still significant questions as to how the changes would be implemented and that there is a tremendous amount to be resolved if the Government is to hit the target date of April 2019.

Whilst insurance companies state the changes will reduce premiums by about £35.00, I have previously blogged as to how this is in doubt (and it should also be borne in mind the amount tax payers has to pay for the Government’s coalition deal with the DUP basically wipes this off anyhow).   The insurance industry has driven through a series of reforms over the past 8 years or so, each and every time promising to pass on savings to motorists yet figures show no such thing has happened and premiums have increased despite the insurance industry’s savings.  Why should we believe these changes will be passed on?  Even if they are passed on, is £35.00 a fair trade for surrender of an ancient legal right?

The Law Society has also pointed out that the changes, which propose victims would represent themselves, are likely unworkable as 76% of doctors say they would not accept instructions from an injured person that did not have a solicitor.  As insurance companies require a medical report before settling a claim, this effectively leaves injured people in an impossible situation.

Whilst I, like the vast majority of solicitors, am fully behind all measures to crack down upon and eliminate fraudulent, dishonest and/or exaggerated claims (there are in fact very severe consequences already in place, which the courts are regularly implementing), I cannot support proposed reforms which target genuine cases for the sake of increasing shareholder profits in insurance companies, and which offer little to no benefit to the public in return.

By James Winterbottom, Solicitor

Aston Knight Solicitors Bury are a specialist firm of solicitors that specialise in serious injuries including medical negligence claims and work injury compensation.  If you would like to discuss further please contact a member of our team on 0161 399 1231 or for a free and confidential discussion.

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