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This week, for the first time, a prominent member of the insurance industry controversially suggested that compensation for whiplash and other minor road accidents be scrapped.
James Dalton, head of motor and liability for the Association of British Insurers called for a public policy debate on whether or not to remove the payment of any damages in low-value claims. Mr Dalton proposed that insurance companies would only pay out for the medical treatment required by the injured person.
Attempts by the insurance industry to limit the amount paid out to genuine accident victims are nothing new. However, this is the first time that a senior figure in the insurance industry such as Mr Dalton has proposed a complete removal of these damages, something that would affect the many thousands of people who suffer moderate injuries in road accidents each year in the UK.
In comments made in his speech at the Modern Claims conference in London on Monday, Mr Dalton said:
"We need a debate about whether someone should be awarded money for a low-value, low-impact and very minor injury claim. It’s a debate about whether you should be provided with rehabilitation and no cash. That is a legitimate public policy debate for society to have and politicians to decide on."
As well as proposing an end to paying compensation for people affected by conditions such as whiplash, Mr Dalton also confirmed that the ABI was working to raise the small claims limit - the threshold below which legal costs will not be awarded in the event of a successful claim.
If successful, this would mean many more people injured in road accidents through no fault of their own would be forced to cover their own legal costs, or to represent themselves, without the benefit of legal advice from a solicitor.
Here at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, our road accident claims department deals with hundreds of cases every year involving genuine accident victims who have suffered injuries through no fault of their own. We’ve been concerned to hear about this latest attack by the insurance industry on injured accident victims. Our solicitor Ruth Bennett had this to say in response to James Dalton’s speech:
"The proposals in Mr Dalton’s speech, if put in to practice, would severely limit the ability of innocent victims to obtain quality legal advice, leaving genuinely injured people to pursue substantial and often very complex Court cases against Defendant insurers, who will likely have teams of lawyers to defend them.
Whilst Mr Dalton may consider cases with a value of less than £5000 to be minor that isn’t the case for the injured person involved. His proposal would leave victims of injuries such as whiplash (which can take up to two years to heal), fractures or scarring unable to afford access to justice.
The proposal for rehabilitation as opposed to a cash settlement is also flawed, as rehabilitation will help only certain people to recover from their injuries. This proposal would leave innocent accident victims without adequate recompense for the injuries they have suffered, and the impact these injuries could have had on their lives."