Our Response to the MOJ Whiplash Reforms on behalf of Motorcyclists
This week we submitted our response to the government’s consultation on reforming the soft tissue injury (‘whiplash’) claims process. Our response was made on behalf of motorcyclists, and other vulnerable road users. As far as we are aware, no one has formally come forward to speak specifically about the impact on bikers and so we felt compelled to speak up on their behalf having dealt with bike claims for nearly 30 years, currently handing a around 1 in 3 motorcycle accident claims in England and Wales.
The Government’s latest crackdown on fraudulent motor claims must make exceptions for vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, or risk denying fair access to justice.
Our response warns that the planned blanket approach for all road users ignores the reality for vulnerable groups. This includes the 18,000-plus motorcyclists who represent 10% of all casualties on the UK’s roads each year, despite only making up 1% of all road users.
The proposals, which aim to impose stricter limits on damages for minor soft tissue injuries, referred to as ‘whiplash’ injuries, will also require all claims under £5,000 to go through the small claims court and therefore not be able to recover sufficient legal costs even if they are successful.
The proposals are aimed at increasing the cost and effort required for all qualifying claimants injured in road accidents, while reducing the amount of compensation claimants with soft tissue injuries can receive. The Government believes this will put off many minor and fraudulent claimants and so reduce overall premiums for ‘honest’ motorists. They expect motorists to receive a £40 saving on their car insurance, although there is no intention from the Government to police this.
However, we argue that the knock-on impact for vulnerable road users will be unfair and fail to support the Government’s wider objectives.
Ed Fletcher, CEO of Fletchers Solicitors, says:
There is a genuine danger that the rights of vulnerable road users will be harmed if exceptions are not made to the Government’s plans.
While the Government has concerns about a perceived compensation culture amongst car users, problems with fraud simply do not apply to claims from vulnerable road users. Compared to the ABI’s estimate of 70,0000 dishonest motor claims detected in 2015 alone, we estimate less than 0.0002% of motorcycle claims involve findings of dishonesty,
Insurers recognise this and, as a result, motorcycle insurance is already good value, about a third of the equivalent insurance for car drivers. The Government’s focus is clearly on reducing car insurance, not motorbike insurance.
The proposals also fail to take into account the complex nature of accidents involving vulnerable road users who aren’t protected by a car when an impact takes place. Not only are their injuries more complex and varied as a result, but also, in our experience, the question of who is to blame is twice as likely to be disputed in motorcycle cases compared to the average motor claim.
This makes it harder for such matters to be dealt with fairly through the small claims court. Such road users are therefore more likely to require more in-depth legal advice and also very detailed (and more expensive) medial reports to support their case.
Applying a blanket approach across all road users therefore puts these groups at a substantial disadvantage for no benefit other than to put unreasonable obstacles in the path of legitimate claimants.
We believe the correct solution will be to draw a clear distinction between claims from different types of road user.
We believe that any reforms bought in by the Government in order to crackdown on whiplash claims, should be limited to ‘occupants of a vehicle’ only. This will ensure that bikers and other vulnerable road users, who are not part of the perceived problem, continue to be protected by society.