The Association of Consumer Support Organisations has urged the claimant industry to continue working together, post the Covid 19 epidemic, as the Ministry of Justice delays Part II of the whiplash reforms into "the longest of the long grass". This from an article in Insurance Post.
Part two of the whiplash reform focuses on credit hire, early notification of claims, rehabilitation, recoverability of disbursements and introducing a Baréme type system where system claims are divided into three main categories: compensation for death, serious injuries and temporary injuries (including road traffic accident-related soft tissue injury claims).
The consultation on part two of the whiplash reforms was published in November 2016 and the according to Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, credit hire and rehabilitation sectors have been enquiring about the government’s response since.
He said: “The credit hire and rehabilitation sectors have been politely enquiring about the government’s response ever since, not least because the threat of reform has been hanging over them like the sword of Damocles.”
The Ministry of Justice confirmed on Tuesday it will be delaying the response to the consultation until after the April 2021 implementation of the whiplash reforms when posed with the parliamentary question by Labour’s MP Andy Slaughter.
Slaughter asked: “To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when he plans to publish the second part of the government’s response to the Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury (whiplash) Claims Process consultation.”
In response, Alex Chalk, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the MoJ, confirmed that the work related to the implementation of Civil Liability Act 2018 has been paused and the MoJ will not respond to the consultation until after these are implemented.
Chalk said: “Implementing these reforms in April 2021 will remain the government’s priority. We are aware of the continued interest in the issues raised in part 2 of the ‘Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury (whiplash) Claims Process’ consultation paper and will be considering our response to that consultation after the April 2021 implementation.”
However, according to Maxwell Scott, the further delay raises the question of whether the reforms will be enacted at all.
He said: “The government has not been explicit in consigning part two to the dustbin of history, but I believe the chance of it seeing the light of day has now become vanishingly slim. By April 2021, four and a half years will have elapsed, and so much change has engulfed the industry, not least in the last four months, that part two will be irrelevant in the current climate. For a start, the internecine strife that characterised much of the claims debate during the last decade has been replaced by a more mature, consensual approach to problem-solving.”
Maxwell Scott pointed out that Acso and the Association of the British Insurers have brokered an agreement to manage rehabilitation and liability disputes remotely during the lockdown; The Credit Hire Organisations has overseen with the general terms of agreement motor insurers a Statement of Principles on the management of credit hire cases; and Thomson and the ABI agreed a protocol on personal injury.
He added: “Suddenly, consensus is the flavour of the month. Those on both claimant and defendant sides that thrive on the muck and bullets of conflict and litigation suddenly look as dated as kipper ties.”
Maxwell Scott said the industry should not wait for the government but build on the progress it has made during the Covid-19 to deliver better consumer outcomes post-Covid.
He said: “Acso the CHO and the ABI have been strong advocates for consensus. The ABI/Acso Statement of Intent, which was born from a need to work together pragmatically, aims to ensure injured people can still access treatment in the lockdown, has received widespread support and lays the foundations for a new approach to claims.
“Rather than wait to be told what to do by the government, better to build on recent progress to deliver better consumer outcomes. Covid-19 will end one day, but there is no reason for this new approach to end with the passing of the pandemic.”
The ABI has confirmed it continues to support the MoJ so the reforms can be introduced “as soon as it is practical to do so”.
A spokesperson for the ABI said: “Our focus is to continue to support the MoJ so that the much-needed reforms can be introduced as soon as it is practical to do so. We look forward to hearing the government’s response to part two when it is released.”
In April, the MoJ confirmed the whiplash reforms, including the implementation of the claims portal, have been pushed back to April 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, even before the government announced the delay to the portal, the industry have voiced their doubts whether the reforms could be properly achieved in time without cutting corners.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau opened the registration for the Official Injury Claim portal back in February, saying it was ready and waiting for the government to publish the judicial rules.
Speaking to Post in February Maxwell Scott said that without the judicial rules in place, the portal is just “a smart looking tin, but with nothing in it”.
He said: “It’s very welcome that the MIB has kept to its side of the deal and prepared the portal as much as it can and in the time it said it would. It’s good the insurance industry has fulfilled its obligations there. However, the problem is that while it might be ready from an IT perspective, it’s not from a legal perspective, because until we have the rules in place, what we’ve effectively got is a smart looking tin, but with nothing in it.”