Lords’ collision with new whiplash Bill shows legislation has a long way to go

An overhaul of rules for personal injury claims will create the paradox that someone hurt in a road traffic accident will be entitled to less compensation than if they had sustained the injury another way, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

New legislation being pushed through parliament - the Civil Liability Bill - will mean road users injured through no fault of their own will struggle to get justice. The bill faced criticism during a four-hour Lords debate for failing to define a whiplash injury properly.

Law Society president Joe Egan said: “We are concerned about the lack of clarity because fixed levels of compensation are set to be imposed for whiplash injuries. The Law Society is therefore calling for the definition of whiplash to be set by medical experts.”

During the debate peers also highlighted the need to exclude vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders from the measures in the bill. Concerns that savings for insurers would not be passed on to consumers were also raised.

Law Society president Joe Egan said: “It is clear peers recognise that these new proposals will mean victims will receive far less than under current levels of compensation. Ministers need to address these concerns.

“When combined with Ministry of Justice (MoJ) plans 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.

“Our concerns about the legislation were echoed by peers, who stated that the increase in the small claims limit will 'deny very large numbers of genuine claimants legal advice and representation'".

Joe Egan added: “Without representation claimants will end up either not bringing claims or have no choice but to go it alone.

“Going it alone with a road traffic accident claim up to the value £5,000 is wholly unrealistic and will prejudice thousands of people who have suffered injury through no fault of their own.

“This legislation has a long way to go and we will continue to oppose these reforms.”

Notes to editors

We have set out an illustration of some of the issues a claimant might face when bringing a claim without proper legal representation (see below).

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