Personal Injury Brief October 2016: market insights

A summary of key developments including proposals for transforming the justice system, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) priorities, the ABI fraud conference, the civil courts structure review, driverless cars, the small claims consultation, justice reforms in Scotland, the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010 and plans to delete company records.

Transforming the justice system

The MoJ has published “Transforming our Justice System”, a paper proposing approximately £1 billion of reforms to the justice system to meet the aim of automating and digitising the entire process of civil money claims in the civil courts by 2020. The proposals seek to speed up resolution by replacing paper and post with digital working and to look at options to extend fixed recoverable costs much more widely. The consultation closes on 27 October 2016.

Contact: Ian Davies 

New Justice Secretary: setting priorities 

Liz Truss was appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on 14 July 2016. Her ministerial team includes Sir Oliver Heald QC, who has been appointed Minister of State for Courts and Justice. In her first appearance as Justice Secretary, Truss confirmed the government is committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing a British Bill of Rights. Leaving the European Convention on Human Rights is not something the government is going to pursue. On 15 September 2016, a joint statement by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals set out a vision in support of the consultation, “Transforming our Justice System”.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed the date of the next Autumn Statement is 23 November 2016.

Contact: Deborah Newberry

Civil courts structure review: final report published

The final report of Lord Justice Briggs’ Civil Courts Structure Review was published on 27 July 2016. His key recommendation is the creation of an online court (OC), intended to deal with most claims up to £25,000. Briggs LJ proposes that cases should go through a three-stage procedure: (i) automated triage stage (designed to help litigants without lawyers present their claim) (ii) conciliation stage (handled by a case officer) and (iii) determination stage by a judge. Excluded categories of claim could include personal injury, clinical negligence and professional negligence.

Briggs LJ told the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ mediation symposium that his recommendation for the online court will bring alternative dispute resolution (ADR) ‘into the mainstream’ of civil dispute resolution – removing the ‘A’ from ‘ADR’.

Contact: Richard West

Small claims consultation: announcement awaited

Details of proposals set out in the Autumn Statement 2015 to remove general damages for whiplash claims and raise the small claims limit to £5,000 for all personal injury claims are awaited. The latest edition of Aviva’s “Road to Reform” report indicates that 83% of consumers support these reforms. Minister of State for Courts and Justice, Sir Oliver Heald QC is due to give the keynote presentation at the ABI’s Motor Conference on 18 October 2016. The ABI has stated that the conference will provide a chance to assess progress with the government’s ongoing agenda for reforming the compensation culture.

Contact: Rachel Moore

Related item: Whiplash: small claims limit to increase to £5,000

Driverless cars: where are we going?

The Department for Transport’s consultation, “Pathway to driverless cars” closed on 9 September 2016. In our response, Kennedys has told the government that compulsory car insurance should be, in the first instance, widened to include product liability to cover the introduction of driverless cars. We have also called for the creation of an industry-wide group to advise ministers and other stakeholders on how the technology is developing and how regulation needs to change. In a related development, on 15 September 2016, the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into the future uses of driverless cars, which includes what further revisions are needed to insurance, regulation and legislation in the UK to create an enabling environment for autonomous vehicles.

Contact: Niall Edwards

Related item: Compulsory product liability cover should be first step in insurer response to driverless cars

MedCo: MoJ criticises creation of shell companies

The MoJ has condemned the creation of multiple shell companies on MedCo, following the increased number of large medical reporting organisations (MROs) on the MedCo portal. Four tier 1 providers have recently registered 20 more tier 2 shells each, on top of the companies they have already registered. The MoJ warned in March 2016 that it intended to change the MRO qualifying criteria to stop shell companies, which it described as “unacceptable”. Bippon Vinayak, the founder and CEO of Doctors Chambers, a tier 1 MRO, has responded that its creation of shell companies is not to increase market share but to maintain it.

Contact: Niall Edwards

Scotland: justice reforms

On 6 September 2016, the Scottish government announced its Programme for Government 2016-17. Proposed legislation includes the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation Bill, which will include provisions to introduce sliding caps for success fees in personal injury and other civil actions, allow damages-based agreements and introduce qualified one-way costs shifting for personal injury cases and appeals. In a separate development, the Act of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Rules Amendment) (Personal Injury Pre-Action Protocol) 2016 comes into force on 28 November 2016. The Act introduces a compulsory pre-action protocol for personal injury claims, applying to claims up to the value of £25,000.

Contact: Rory Jackson

ABI Fraud Conference 2016

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) Fraud Conference took place on 13 September 2016, with speakers including Ben Fletcher, Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau. On the same date, the ABI published its latest data on fraudulent claims. This indicates that insurers detected more than 130,000 fraudulent claims in 2015, an increase of 6% on 2014. These frauds were valued at £1.3 billion, down 3% on 2014. Dishonest motor claims remained the most common frauds and of the highest value, although there had been a fall in the number and value of these claims from 2014.

Contact: Martin Stockdale

Companies House: plans to delete company records

Companies House is considering whether to reduce the length of time for which it retains public records of dissolved companies from 20 years to six years. This proposal has attracted criticism, including concerns that it will cause difficulties for sick and injured workers who are trying to identify their former employers as well as hamper investigations into fraud. The government has said that a consultation will be held before any decision is taken.

Contact: Martin Stockdale

Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010

The Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010 came into force on 1 August 2016. The provisions of the Act make it easier for a third party to bring a claim against an insurer when the insured has become insolvent. The key change is that the third party will only have to issue one set of proceedings, against the insurer. It will then ask the court to make declarations both on the insured’s liability to the third party and the insurer’s liability under the policy. The Act replaces the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1930.

Contact: Michael Hogg

Related item: More than just a number – the 1930 Act’s makeover is finally coming into force.

Read other items in the Personal Injury Brief - October 2016