ERS Claims Director, Peter Smith comments on the publication of today's Government Consultation on whiplash claims;

As recently as October the claims market appeared to have received a clear signal that "whiplash reform" had been kicked into the long grass. The new team at the Ministry of Justice seemed to be focused on the courts and prisons and sources close to them indicated that change to the process for whiplash claims was not part of any dialogue. Indeed at the time ERS commented with dismay at this turn of events.

It does now seem that the groundwork has nonetheless been undertaken and we of course welcome the publishing of today's Consultation, which, but for the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, might already have seen the light of day.

The two broad strands originally announced by George Osborne - lifting the small claims track limit and addressing whiplash – have been followed through into today's Consultation paper. Interestingly the narrative on the latter has shifted from banning general damages to capping them. We might speculate that this could be intended to facilitate the reforms since the original proposal of banning general damages would have needed to overcome a significant hurdle of primary legislation. It will also be interesting to see if the two strands progress in tandem since it would still appear easier to implement the change to the small claims track limit sooner.

The short fuse on the consultation period will certainly ignite the debate. That employers' and public liability claims fall within scope makes this a shock to the system for claimant law firms. However as we look into the distance the distinct possibility remains that any vacuum created by withdrawal of claimant law firms will be filled by claim management companies who will still see a small margin to be earned on such cases.

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