by Kelly Cronin at Zenith Chambers
Personal injury lawyers have been aware of the government’s plans to reform how personal injury claims are dealt with for some time. Originally, the new proposals were to come into force in October 2018. However, as a result of the General Election in 2017, the Prisons and Courts Bill did not progress.
Despite the bill having been lost, the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Law Society have recently been advised that the government plans to implement the personal injury reforms in April 2019.
Initially, the reforms will only apply to claims arising out of road traffic accidents (RTAs) with no clear date having been set for implementation for other categories of personal injury claim. It is therefore unclear when the new reforms will apply to all personal injury claims and whether the reforms will differ in relation to each category.
Furthermore, the announcement of implementation from April 2019 comes despite the new Civil Liability Bill having not been published yet and also before the Justice Select Committee has published its report on raising the RTA small claims limit to £5,000 and all other personal injury small claims limit to £2,000. The Ministry Of Justice (MOJ) has confirmed that despite continued silence on the Civil Liability Bill, five working groups have been created to consider specific aspects of the reform programme. These groups will consider legal issues, ensure that suitable processes for admitting liability following an accident are created and suitable IT systems are developed to allow the reforms to operate smoothly. Guidance for all court users following the reforms will also be created. However, it seems presumptuous to set a deadline for implementation in just over a year’s time without the matter having been properly published, debated and consulted upon and without confirmation of what the new legislative proposals are.
Simon Stanfield, chair of MASS, said, “There is an enormous amount for the government to sort out if it is to hit its April 2019 target date”, and as yet there is no clearly set out plan for how this is to be done.
It is positive that the reforms appear to be coming in stages starting with RTA claims. The government is at least likely to be able to iron out inevitable teething problems before rolling out the reforms to all areas of personal injury. Of course the reforms are not welcomed at all by many, staged or otherwise, given the implications of tariff systems and raising the small claims limits.
Ultimately therefore, although a new deadline has been set, how the implementation will operate in practice and what the reforms themselves will be remains as unclear as ever.
Many thanks to Kelly Cronin and Zenith Chambers for permission to reproduce this article www.zenithchambers.co.uk