On the same day this week that Chancellor Philip Hammond said the government would “progress urgently” to consult about the personal injury discount rate, the Petitions Committee, working jointly with the Transport Committee, heard evidence about the cost of car insurance for young drivers. The topic will be debated in Parliament after a petition calling for a £1,200 cap on the cost of car insurance for young drivers secured more than 180,000 signatures. The Parliamentary debate is scheduled for 20 March and it may be mere coincidence that this is the same date on which the statutory instrument bringing in the new negative discount rate is scheduled to take effect.
The Lord Chancellor (LC) Liz Truss bit the bullet today and set the discount rate at minus 0.75%, to apply from 20 March. The news was issued via this statement to the Stock Exchange at 07:00 this morning. As a matter of process, Ms Truss should be congratulated for not ducking a very awkward decision – even if the financial implications of her decision are of huge importance for new and current outstanding cases alike. As to substance, views will inevitably differ hugely.
The lowered rate (it’s decreasing by a staggering 325 basis points from 2.5%) has attracted notable criticism this morning from insurers because of its inflationary effect on awards and reserves. The LC said today that she “recognise[s] the impacts this decision will have on the insurance industry. My Rt. Hon. Friend the Chancellor will meet with insurance industry representatives to discuss the situation.” It could be expected that that might be a fairly high-tempered discussion.
Just over a year ago, the High Court delivered its decision in Pickard and Marshall v Generali and others. The case involved a road traffic accident in France in which two English residents, Marshall and Pickard, were injured (Mr Marshall died from his injuries) in a collision caused by an uninsured French driver colliding with Mr Pickard’s stationary car (insured with RSA) and forcing it against another French vehicle (insured with Generali). The question of the applicable law was appealed and a decision on the point was given on 19 January 2017.