No issue of the RAG would be complete without reference to the whiplash reforms proposed in the Civil Liabilities Bill. We had intended to reveal ARAG’s changes to policies here, but the government announced in July that reforms had been put back one year, until April 2020.

The delay in implementation has been brought about by the realisation that more time is needed to develop and test a claims platform for individuals to file their small claims online. The plan now is that the platform will be ready for testing from October 2019. Funded by insurers themselves, the idea is that it would then be ready to go live in April 2020.

Significant reforms in the Bill include a ban on offers to settle claims before medical evidence has been obtained
by defendant insurers. This practice, in the past, has led to insurers paying-off low value claims rather than incur the expense of investigating them properly. Proposals also introduce a fixed tariff of damage for soft tissue motor personal injury claims with a recovery period of up to two years.

The Bill raced through its committee stage in September with concessions exempting vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists from the high £5000 small claims court limit for motor injury claims. The likelihood is that the new non-motor injury limit may apply instead: at £2000, even this is double the current England & Wales rate.

An amendment was also put forward to hold insurers to their promise to pass on savings to consumers. There has understandably been considerable cynicism that they would do so, particularly as claims volumes have been dropping anyway. Portal statistics for the first six months of this year show a fall in RTA claims volumes of 4.2%, with a 12% reduction for the whole of 2017 compared with 2016. The stated purpose of the Bill had always been to save £35 on the price of the average motor insurance premium although it is widely expected that legal expenses insurance premiums will rise by up to £10.

The Bill now needs to have its report stage and third reading.

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.

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