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Personal injury reforms delay

23 July 2018

In May 2018 I prepared a blog entitled ‘small claims u-turn?after the Justice Select Committee called on the government to put the ex-Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to raise the small claims limit for personal injury claims and prohibit awards of general damages for minor soft tissue injuries on hold whilst the past five years of reforms are evaluated.

The Justice Select Committee raised “concerns about the financial and procedural barriers that claimants might face”, suggesting “the small claims limit for personal injury should not be increased unless ministers can explain how it will make sure that access to justice is not affected.” The Committee warned there should be caution in proposing further reforms before the review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act was concluded, which is not expected to be completed until the end of this year.

Conversely, the Ministry of Justice were pushing through the Civil Liability Bill to bring in the changes announced by the ex-Chancellor, working to a timescale for implementation of April 2019.

The Government has recently announced, in response to the Justice Select Committee’s report, a revised timetable, with large-scale testing anticipated by October 2019 and implementation of the changes in April 2020; a delay of one year.

There has certainly been no suggestion that the original plans for change are not to be pursued and this may simply be an appreciation that the proposed reforms are of some significance and cannot be put into effect lightly.  However, as we enter a period of political uncertainty there will be a degree of reservation as to whether the position will shift further, both in terms of the timescale and ultimately the nature of the reforms.

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