Drink-drive smash victims will be denied access to legal help under new whiplash Bill

Families put at risk by drunk drivers would be penalised by the Government’s new whiplash proposals, the Law Society has warned.

Commenting on beefed-up reforms that will overhaul the personal injury sector, the Law Society said the government’s new Civil Liability Bill will mean drivers and passengers injured through no fault of their own will struggle to get justice.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today unveiled its far-reaching Civil Liability Bill, which will contain not only reforms to whiplash claims but also changes to the way the discount rate applied to personal injury settlements is calculated.

The MoJ is changing the system of compensation for personal injury in England and Wales by imposing fixed levels of compensation for whiplash injuries.

Law Society president Joe Egan said: “As we see in the news every day, anyone can be the victim of drink driving.

“This is a significant change to the present system where judges decide what compensation is to be awarded. There is a risk these new proposals will mean victims will receive far less than under current levels of compensation.

“When combined with MoJ proposals to increase the small claims limit the amount of legal advice and guidance that can be obtained from a solicitor in these cases will be severely restricted.”

The Bill will also reform the way in which the personal injury discount rate is set under the Damages Act 1996. For people catastrophically injured through someone else’s negligence this technical process is fundamental to our justice system.

Joe Egan said: “Changes to the methodology for setting the discount rate must not undermine the key principle that those affected should get 100% of the compensation they are owed*.”

Commenting on the government’s claim that the cost of motor insurance will be lowered by the reforms, Joe Egan said the idea is entirely fanciful.

“These promises have been made before. The government says its objective is to reduce the cost of motor insurance, but the reality is insurers take the savings and fail to pass them onto consumers.

“The Law Society does not accept that this legislation is necessary and we continue to oppose these reforms.”

Notes to editors

*Those who have suffered lifelong injury need to have reassurance that the sum the wrongdoer is ordered to pay will genuinely be sufficient to meet their needs for the whole of their lives and will not run out leaving them unable to afford necessary treatment and support. The needs of people seriously injured through another’s negligence should be considered to at least the same extent as the interests of defendants and the public purse.

Claimants who are successful should be given the right to choose how they manage their compensation. In some cases lump sum payments are more appropriate and in others periodical payment orders are more suitable. Either way, claimants should always have a choice between a lump sum and a periodical payment order.

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