Parliamentary business resumes tomorrow (4 September) and the Government’s personal injury reforms are front and centre of the first day’s business of the new term, with the Civil Liability Bill being debated at second reading stage.
The whiplash reforms in part 1 of the Bill appear to be somewhat more disputed than the changes, in its part 2, to the methodology for setting the personal injury discount rate. Although no amendments are taken at second reading, the Government has already indicated it will table an amendment during the subsequent stages which will be aimed at requiring insurers to report on savings generated by the reforms, very probably by reporting to the FCA so that it may publish aggregated market data and findings. This approach should address concerns aired when the Bill was debated in the Lords earlier in the year.
Other concerns raised in the Lords are also likely to be revisited in tomorrow’s debate. For example, the Government’s proposed increase in the small claims limit for motor injury claims, from £1,000 to £5,000, is expected to lead to greater numbers of claimants in person, raising important questions about timely developing of the necessary IT platform and appropriate support and guidance for these cases. It is understood that over the summer Ministry of Justice held its first stakeholder workshop aimed at defining and delivering these key elements. This and any further such events may be referred to in the debate.
The extent to which so-called vulnerable road users (mainly cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians) come within the part 1 reforms may also be raised by the opposition. So far, the Government has been clear that they do not fall within the proposed whiplash tariff (since whiplash injuries as defined in the Bill relate only to those in cars) but that such claims will nevertheless be subject to the new small claims limit.
The change in how the discount rate is to be set has so far attracted less controversy that the whiplash and small claims reforms. Whether that remains the case will be a little clearer after tomorrow’s debate, which we will report on as promptly as possible.
Authored by Alistair Kinley, director of policy and regulatory affairs