On 18 January Justice Minister Dominic Raab MP gave one short answer to four questions tabled by his Labour Shadow Andy Slaughter MP about the personal injury reforms announced in the Chancellor’s 2015 Autumn Statement. Mr Raab said quite simply that: “The Government will consult on the detail of the new reforms in due course. The consultation will be accompanied by an impact assessment.”
Andy Slaughter had actually asked about the following points: how to enable new litigants in person to use the personal injury portal, how the reforms might have an effect on the income of the courts, the effect of the reforms on court resources and staff and about how the reforms might affect government revenues?
The issues raised here by Mr Slaughter may well be important, on the assumption that the consequences (intended or otherwise) of the reforms announced in the Autumn Statement are likely to include (a) greater overall numbers of litigants in person and (b) a reduction in fast track case numbers because (i) more claims are resolved in the small track once it is increased to £5,000 and (ii) a cohort of cases falls away as a result of the ban on the recovery of general damages for ‘whiplash’.
When the consultation on the Autumn Statement reforms – ending general damages in ‘whiplash’ claims and increasing the personal injury small claims limit to £5,000 – is published we would expect to see these questions addressed in the impact assessment (IA) to which Mr Raab referred. It seems likely that the consultation will begin in the next few weeks.
It is quite clear that if there are going to be fewer costs-bearing injury claims and fewer road traffic claims generally then will be an effect on lawyers’ revenues. Whether the anticipated IA is as starkly phrased on this point as this extract from an earlier Ministry of Justice IA – “Claimant lawyers would experience a reduction in aggregate income. This would not constitute a direct economic cost of the reforms, but instead would reflect their increased economic efficiency.” – remains to be seen.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).