The topic of personal injury claims was again the subject of parliamentary debate yesterday (7 November), with views being put forward on the Transport Select Committee’s report and the MoJ’s consultation document. While nothing new was discussed, it did reveal a little more of the new Justice Minister Sailesh Vara’s thinking in this area.
Small claims court
Despite attempts by the Shadow Justice Minister to get the government to admit to a U-turn over the small-claims track, Mr Vara was clear that this decision came after a thorough review of the evidence. While the Labour minister was seeking assurance that nothing would be done on this for at least three to five years, so that the impact of change could be properly reviewed, his view was that consideration would be deferred as more work was needed to support litigants in person, consider how best to regulate the personal injury claims sector, mitigate any impact on the online portal used to process road traffic accident claims where liability is admitted and assess the impact on the market of other government reforms.
The main points in focus which were referred to in the consultation response were:
- Approved accreditation scheme;
- New best-practice guidance;
- Better accident information and access to medical records, where appropriate; and
- An improved medical report form to speed up settlements.
A lot of emphasis was put on the fact that all the relevant stakeholders were coming together to help design a system that would work more effectively and they were seeking a “solid base of agreement” to mandate this change. Although not referred to in the debate, it does seem that the BMA is playing an active role in making recommendations, which may shape the reforms more towards a published panel of experts. Timing was unclear but the Justice Secretary was prepared to commit to some reform here next year.
This area received more criticism from all sides of the debate and is likely to face more regulation next year. The thrust of the arguments related to its contribution to fraudulent claims but concern was also expressed about the impact this had on claimants who might be ignorant about the value of their claim, and the issue of the call being unsolicited was also referred to. While the Shadow Justice Minister was calling for a ban, the Justice Secretary’s position in the debate was to look for “methods to control the use of pre-medical offers.”
Other than references to data sharing, the Justice Secretary was clear that future reform would now need to wait until the impact of the current changes had been given time to take effect. The emphasis was to move from the insurance summits and try and get consensus moving forward.