It is important that anyone who has been the victim of a road traffic accident is able to claim compensation for injuries they have suffered due to negligence. This must be balanced against the need to ensure insurance premiums are affordable for responsible motorists and that people are not able to make frivolous or fraudulent claims.
The Conservative Government has said that it will not remove the right to damages for minor soft tissue injuries. Instead, it will create a tariff for claims for an injury lasting up to two years. The Government has plans to increase the small claims limit for road traffic related personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000. It also intends to ban offers to settle whiplash claims before medical evidence is given.
These changes will be taken forward in the Prisons and Courts Bill, which had its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on 20 March.
I understand several organisations have expressed concern about these proposals. While they affect the victims of road traffic accidents, I am concerned that the proposed reforms to whiplash will affect others, including those people who are injured at work.
I am also concerned that the proposal to increase the small claims track for non-RTA claims to £2,000 will harm access to justice in a range of cases, including employer's liability. In his 2009 Review of Civil Litigation Costs, Lord Justice Jackson opposed any increase in the small claims limit until inflation justified an increase to £1,500.
In any case, I would like the insurance industry to guarantee that all savings will be passed on to consumers in reduced premiums. The Prisons and Courts Bill will provide an opportunity for these proposals to be debated and scrutinised and I and my Labour colleagues working on the Bill will bear in mind the concerns being raised with us.