Sunday 30th May 2021
Bill and Doris are driving their Ford Fiesta along the Formby By-Pass on their way to Lady Rose nursery. This is part of their Sunday, after church, routine. They will potter around the gardens and then head to the café for a slice of lemon cake and a free coffee using their loyalty points. This is their regular treat, and a far cry from the years that Doris worked as a midwife. They arrive at the Hightown junction and stop at the lights waiting to turn into the car park.
Behind them is Eric in his new BMW. He is a bit worse for wear after heavy Saturday night. He hears the familiar ping from his new phone and has a quick look to see that it is a text from Sharon. He has a quick and discreet read, and smiles. He slows down a bit so he can send a quick reply. But, in the words of John Lennon – he didn’t notice that the lights had changed. He is suddenly aware of the stationary Fiesta. He brakes quickly, but not quickly enough. No free coffee for Bill and Doris today.
Doris is wearing a seat belt. She is thrown forwards and then backwards by the impact. Just like a whiplash. She immediately feels dizzy and is sick at the side of the car. Over the next few days, her neck and shoulders become painful. She assumes it will go away in time. Weeks later she is still in pain. It affects her every day. She loses sleep. She cannot get comfortable. She talks to Molly at the Ladies’ Fellowship, whose son is a lawyer. She calls Tom who advises her that she can claim compensation. He can help her with the case. She is worried about the cost, but he tells her she won’t have to pay if she gets nothing and if she wins will pay him, no more than 25% of anything she gets,
It is 8 months before she is fully recovered. In fact she still has the odd twinge but doesn’t want to cause a fuss. Tom secures a payment of £3250.00 which Bill and Doris use to buy that new shed they have been saving for.
Sunday 6th June 2021
Now imagine the same scene a week later. Everything is identical. Bill and Doris, Eric, BMW, text message, John Lennon, painful injury. But everything else is quite different. Tom tells her that she will get just £840.00 for her pain and suffering. He won’t be able to help her because this is now a ‘small claim’. She cannot recover legal fees. She can do it herself using a new-fangled portal and refers her to a 64 page guide. She discusses it with Bill and they quickly decide…’Let’s not bother.’
What a difference a week makes. This is where thousands of genuine victims find themselves. Damages for whiplash injuries have been reduced to derisory levels for any accident after 31st May 2021. To add insult to injury, so to speak, a claim worth less than £5000 is a ‘small claim’ and there is no right to recover legal costs. The Ministry of Justice say that victims can access a portal. One which many lawyers have struggled to get their heads around. Most will not bother.
The excuse for all of this is that it is needed to combat fraud. This is a myth. I have written in the past about the tiny levels of dishonest claims –
So Doris and the remaining 90% + genuine victims are punished as part of a so called war on the small number of fraudsters. Doris is a retired midwife who was out minding her own business, when the next months of her life are blighted by the carelessness of a young driver. She is compensated if she is injured on one day, she gets nothing if it happens a week later. And it is something to do with fraud. In what parallel universe do the words Doris and fraud appear in the same sentence? This is nothing to do with batting anything, apart from the rights of genuine road users. 100% of genuinely injured road users have seen their rights taken away.
Who benefits? Insurers of course! They are already benefitting from record low claim numbers following lockdown when nobody was driving.
Victims cannot expect much support from the media who have been cheering from the side-lines.
BBC news on Monday 31st May announced that the ‘reforms’ will mean a £35 drop in motor insurance premiums, boldly proclaiming – “The new rules will enable insurers to cut premiums for millions of drivers by about £35 a year, say ministers”. I don’t know a single driver who really expects this to happen.
Again we see the word ‘fraud’ just in case anyone is tempted to feel sympathy for Doris –
Sky News went further with this headline –
Changes to Whiplash process will “put an end to greedy opportunism”.
So Doris is now a greedy opportunist.
This is nothing to do with ‘process’. It is the wholesale wiping out of peoples’ rights. It is the first time that we have seen levels of damages fixed, not by the courts, but by government edict. The new figures have no scientific or judicial backing. They are randomly fixed to deter most claimants from taking any action.
A different kind of levelling up?