Recent consultation undertaken by the government last year will be taken into consideration by the government, along with an assessment of the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 before a decision on whiplash claims is made. Consultation was closed at the beginning of March which the government claim will help to reduce the cost of motor insurance premiums for consumers but critics claim will make it more difficult for those injured in accidents to be able to claim the compensation that they are rightfully owed.
The government opened consultation in December of last year on Reducing the Number and Costs of Whiplash Claims. The consultation paper stated the UK had become the whiplash capital of the world although some of the figures contained within the report have been contested. Respondents, including lawyers, solicitors, insurers, and medical professionals, were asked to respond by the beginning of March with their opinion and the government were set to make a decision having heard all of the necessary evidence.
The government proposed either an accreditation scheme or an independent medical panel to determine whether or not the cases merited compensation. One of the biggest problems with whiplash claims is that it can be very difficult to assess whether or not a patient has whiplash. There are no hard and fast tests that can be made in order to determine the efficacy and value of a claim and this was something that the government wanted to address.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has only just come into force and, in a statement from Louise Ellman MP, the government wishes to wait to determine the impact of these changes before deciding how best to move forward with changes to whiplash claims. Critics worry that people that have suffered injury will not be able to gain the same level of access to legal services and compensation if the government’s changes do go through.
In April, it was widely reported that despite the government’s sound-bites regarding the apparent increasing problem with whiplash claims, they had actually dropped to the lowest figure since 2008/2009. A Freedom of Information request revealed that there had been 488,281 claims made in 2012/2013 compared to the 547,405 in 2011/2012. This figure represents the lowest it has been since 2008/2009 and means that there were around 60,000 fewer whiplash compensation claims made in the past twelve months compared to the twelve months before.
The information had been obtained by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and was presented to the House of Commons in response to the request for consultation. The government has now declared that they will wait to hear all oral evidence and to see how recent changes to the Personal Injury industry affects claimants before deciding whether or not to implement their proposed changes. A number of groups and organisations are being called to give their information and evidence to the select committee and a decision will be made.
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