In this article, we provide an update on the progress of PI reforms in the Civil Liability Bill. The Bill proposes to increase the small claims limit. We last discussed the Bill in edition 224 (here), when it was first presented in the House of Lords.
Scrutiny of the Civil Liability Bill
The second reading of the Bill took place in the House of Lords this week. On Friday of last week, however, the ‘House of Lords delegated powers committee’ raised concerns over the Lord Chancellor setting the new tariff of damages.
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) also expressed its concerns to the Committee that there are no key provisions in the Bill concerning delegation of power to the Lord Chancellor. The Committee, in agreement with MASS, said:
‘... the extensive use of delegated powers in what it described as a “skeletal” 12-clause bill “will severely limit parliamentary scrutiny as the full impact of the proposed measures cannot be determined without consideration of the proposed regulations/secondary legislation. The devil is very much in the detail”’.[i]
The Government has said that the tariff would be reviewed from time to time but the Committee were not ‘convinced’ by the Ministry of Justice’s arguments:
‘It was also not convinced that the Lord Chancellor would make a better job of tweaking the tariff, for whatever reason, than judges, “who have had decades of experience dealing with damages for personal injury at the bar and on the bench”.[and] “If this is not to be determined by the judges, it would be better determined by independent medical experts rather than by government.’[ii]
The second reading took place on 24 April 2018, wherein the chamber provided further scrutiny of the Government’s plans on Whiplash Reforms and the Civil Liability Bill. Lord Marks, a frontbencher for the Liberal Democrat’s, stated that he would prefer to see the small claims limit for RTA claims increase to ‘£3,000, rather than £5,000’.[iii]
Former President of APIL, David Bott spoke at the annual conference, on 17 April 2018, and said the reforms are a ‘huge task’ for the Ministry of Justice to implement. Mr Bott predicts that the reforms, at the earliest, will be in place in October of 2019.[iv]
The ‘huge task’ Mr Bott alluded to was the creation of a gateway portal, allowing ‘litigants in person’ to have access and use ‘personal injury portals’ and ‘medical reporting portal, MedCo’.
Mr Bott predicts that both tracks could become overwhelmed with the volume of cases it would likely see. It was suggested that defendants may deny liability ‘in the hope that litigants in person would be discouraged from pursuing the case further’.
[i] Neil Rose, ‘Lack of detail in Civil Liability Bill will “severely limit parliamentary scrutiny”, peers warn’ (20 April 2018 Legal Futures <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/lack-of-detail-in-civil-liability-bill-will-severely-limit-parliamentary-scrutiny-peers-warn> accessed 25 April 2018.
[iii] Neil Rose, ‘Opposition raise serious doubts about Civil Liability Bill but several peers support overall direction’ (25 April 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/opposition-raise-serious-doubts-about-civil-liability-bill-but-several-peers-support-overall-direction> accessed 26 April 2018.
[iv] Neil Rose, ‘Government “unlikely” to hit April 2019 target for PI small claims limit as solicitor warns of “have a go” culture’ (18 April 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-unlikely-to-hit-april-2019-target-for-pi-small-claims-limit-as-solicitor-warns-of-have-a-go-culture> accessed 19 April 2018.