It’s only just over a week since the Ministry of Justice launched its consultation document on the fundamental reform of the personal injury process – ‘Reforming the soft tissue injury (whiplash) claims’ process’ – but it has already been forced to back track and acknowledge that amendments need to be made to its proposals.
Speaking to the Law Society Gazette late last week, a MoJ spokesperson said the figures in the government’s proposals for whiplash reform were out of date and would need to be updated during the implementation process:
‘The figures used in the consultation were the most relevant at the time of producing the document. The impact assessment will be updated with the latest figures as we move forward with the implementation process.’
The MoJ’s ‘Reforming the soft tissue injury (whiplash) claims process’ consultation document proposed that minor injuries lasting six to nine months would receive £400 damages plus £25 for psychological impact, while those injuries lasting 19 to 24 months would receive a £3,600 tariff.
However, the MoJ has now conceded that that particular aspect of its reform proposal was written more than a year ago, and was based on judicial guideline figures increased in September, 2015, in the 12th edition of the Judicial College guidelines. The Ministry of Justice has since acknowledged that it used these figures as the basis for its figures, rather than the more generous figures in the 13th edition, which significantly increased the guideline damages for whiplash.
Solicitor, Kerry Underwood, said the use incorrect figures, however unintentional that may or may not have been, could have serious legal ramifications should they later be challenged in court. Speaking to the Gazette, she said:
‘The [consultation] paper is misleading and now open to judicial review… The current figures [in the 13th edition] are higher, as they were uprated 3.4 per cent for inflation since 12th edition. But there is something more: the lowest band of soft-tissue injury was increased by 20 per cent.’
‘Those [whiplash claims] are precisely the injuries now under attack by the MoJ as disproportionately high. So the figures that the MoJ think are too high were thought too low by the top judicial and other experts. That very important fact does not get a mention in the consultation paper.’