Question: Following the post-Brexit Cabinet reshuﬄe, do you see the reforms proposed by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement being postponed or modiﬁed in any way?
In my view, there is one inescapable short to medium term eﬀect of Brexit – it will be a distraction to politicians and business leaders alike, delaying many decisions. I don’t see the change of personalities within Cabinet as being signiﬁcant to the whiplash debate, rather the lack of Parliamentary time to pass necessary primary legislation to eradicate general damages. A depleted Ministry of Justice, following severe pruning, now has additional work so some reforms cannot proceed on a full steam ahead basis.
Whilst some insurers are pressing hard for these changes, they would not aﬀect all insurers equally. The debate about whiplash began years ago, so much lobbying material is out of date. Many insurers have since formed alternative business structures with claimant law ﬁrms, so loss of revenue would impact them too.
Much has been said about the alleged link between whiplash claims and fraudulent claims – I remember it well from my APIL Presidency in 2008/09. But no more compelling data appears to have been produced since then. Startling numbers are aired in the press, but I have not seen a single dataset proving a link between increased motor premiums and fraudulent injury claims.
There is a certain irony about pressing on with this reform; insurers have often questioned why Brits have the weakest necks in Europe, referencing our higher incidence of whiplash claims, but the public has voted to make Europe less relevant – is such cultural harmonisation out of step with what the man on the street cares about? I have never met a single person outside the insurance industry who believes fraud is a signiﬁcant issue in the whiplash debate. I regularly speak to London black cab drivers, a modern day comparator perhaps to the man on the Clapham omnibus, who are more than ready to proﬀer opinions on current issues. Repeatedly they cite congestion, cyclists, Uber drivers; but never fraudulent whiplash claims causing excessive premiums.
Brexit delays may mean lobbyists have to navigate a more crowded channel to the reform of small claims with potentially overlapping proposals from the Briggs review commissioned by the judiciary. Predicting the future in politics is always fraught but postponement of the whiplash issue, maybe in perpetuity, may not be any more surprising an outcome than the result of Brexit itself.
This article can also be found in the Modern Claims Magazine.