Personal Injury Brief September 2017: market insights

A summary of key developments including an update on the discount rate review, a new blueprint for fixed costs, including for noise claims; the launch of the online court pilot, progressing autonomous vehicle technology, the reinstatement of measures to tackle whiplash claims, the reconstructed Parliamentary Select Committees; as well as updates on Brexit and data protection legislation.

Discount rate review: repairing the framework

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has accepted the current discount rate of -0.75% and supporting methodology overcompensates personal injury claimants and should be reformed. In its response published on 7 September, the main components of the MoJ’s conclusions include the discount rate should be based on expected investment returns from a low-risk diversified portfolio, rather than solely very-low risk index-linked government stocks. Meanwhile, the Justice Select Committee has published the terms of its pre-legislative scrutiny inquiry and has called for written evidence by 13 October 2017.

Related item: Repairing the discount rate for fairer compensation

Contact: Mark Burton

Jackson report: a new blue print for fixed costs

Lord Justice Jackson’s final report on extending the fixed recoverable costs (FRC) regime was published on 31 July 2017. Jackson LJ has set out a blue print that will bring, if implemented, a grid of FRC for all fast track cases and a new ‘intermediate’ track for certain claims up to £100,000. The Ministry of Justice can bring about change by way of Statutory Instrument (although the capped costs proposal for Judicial Review claims would, it believes, require primary legislation). The target date is said to be October 2018. A government-led consultation on the proposals is now expected.

Related item: Jackson report: a new track and a new world of fixed fees for claims up for £100,000

Contact: Ian Davies

Noise claims: establishing fixed costs

The Civil Justice Council has published a report making recommendations for fixed recoverable costs (FRC) and improvements to claims management in noise-induced hearing loss claims. The recommendations cover both the pre- and post-litigation stages and go beyond fixed costs with a number of proposals to streamline the processes for such claims and encourage settlement. The Master of Rolls has written to the Lord Chancellor to ask for the recommendations to be considered as part of the wider review of FRC.

Contact: Cameron Clark

“County court online”: pilot launched

The 91st update to the Civil Procedure Rules has introduced provisions for a pilot allowing for the electronic submissions of claims for money claims in the county court, where the claimant is legally represented. On completion of the claim form online, the court claims centre will issue and digitally seal the claim which will be returned electronically the claimant’s lawyer for downloading and service on the defendant. The pilot will run from 12 September 2017 to 30 November 2019 and will proceed on an invitation-only basis.

Related item: The £1 billion plan: the Civil Court of the future

Contact: Jennifer Harris

Driverless vehicles: commitment to innovation

On 11 September 2017, the government published a paper that provides a status update on self-driving cars and their potential benefits to the economy. Meanwhile, the government announced last month that small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year. Further, the Queen’s Speech outlined the re-introduction of the autonomous vehicles legislation in the form of the ‘Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill’. The Bill will extend compulsory motor vehicle insurance to cover the use of automated vehicles to ensure that compensation claims continue in line with longstanding insurance practice.

Related item: Driverless vehicles: a blueprint for successful implementation

Contact: Niall Edwards

Civil Liability Bill: whiplash reforms reinstated

The Civil Liability Bill announced in June’s Queen’s Speech signals the reintroduction of the whiplash reform measures that fell with the snap general election. The Bill will tackle the “continuing high number and cost of whiplash claims” – seeking to ban offers to settle claims without the support of medical evidence and introduce a new fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries with a duration of up to two years. Conceivably the Bill could include reforming the discount rate framework. The Queen’s Speech was silent on the earlier proposals to introduce two small claim thresholds - £5,000 for whiplash injuries and £2,000 for all other personal injuries.

Related item: The politics: a weakened Prime Minister, a minority government

Contact: Mark Walsh   

Politics awakened: select committees reconstituted 

After the snap General Election in June, the House of Commons Select Committees have now been reconstituted. Charged with scrutinising government departments and specific policy areas, such Committees have become an increasingly important part of the parliamentary infrastructure. The Justice Committee will be chaired again by Bob Neill. Elsewhere, the Treasury Committee under new chair Nicky Morgan can be expected to take on an increased consumer focus, the Exiting the EU Committee will have even more to contemplate and the importance of Foreign Affairs Committee is likely to increase as we approach the date of Brexit. Meanwhile the government has confirmed it will publish its next budget on 22 November 2017 .

Contact: Rachel Moore

Brexit: flagship legislation published

The standout piece of legislation that will be the legislative process by which the UK exits the EU has been laid before parliament and been approved at Second Reading. The ‘European Union (Withdrawal) Bill’ follows the Great Repeal Bill White Paper, which was published in March 2017. The Bill is likely to be one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK. There are currently more than 12,000 EU regulations in force. Parliament has passed 7,900 statutory instruments implementing EU legislation and 186 Acts which incorporate a degree of EU influence. The Bill will now move to Committee stage – dates for which have not been confirmed but will take place after the Conference Recess.

Related item: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Contact: Deborah Newberry

New age data protection: statement of intent

On 7 August 2017, the government published its Statement of Intent for the Data Protection Bill, following a period of consultation earlier this year. It contains areas that are relevant for insurance – most notably the government will bring forward exemptions to the Bill to ensure underwriting can carry on under much the same data rules as it does currently. The government will use this Bill to mirror a number of existing international standards - specifically the EU General Data Protection Regulation and enshrine their requirements into UK Statute. The new Bill will replace the UK’s existing Data Protection Act. The government intends to lay the Bill once parliament resumes in September.

Related item: Practical problems in processing medical information under the GDPR

Contact: Tracy Head

Read other items in the Personal Injury Brief - September 2017