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Damages for whiplash injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 23rd October 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 3:30 pm, 23rd October 2018

I will speak only briefly, because a number of the points to be made in this debate are the same ones that we made in the previous debate. There is no logic or sense to the Government’s rationale; they simply want to minimise the damages paid to litigants who have legitimate and in some cases serious injuries.

The noble Lord Woolf has been quoted several times. The Woolf report led to progressive and now legendary reform of the civil justice system, so he very much knows what he is talking about on this issue as on so many others. He said that the tariff

“results in injustice and it is known to result in injustice. Indeed, no one can deny that it results in injustice. There has never been a case where legislation deliberately introduces injustice into our law. It may be that it is only in regard to small claims, but surely it is important that we pause before we do that.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 12 June 2018;
Vol. 791, c. 1620.]

I agree that the Government should pause, and I would say that there is an objection in principle to the tariff in this case. No good reason has been given why this should not be a judicial process rather than an administrative or politically affected process.

There is also an issue of quantum to consider. The proposed sums in the tariff are derisory for what are often quite serious injuries lasting for periods up to 24 months. An injury that lasts for two years is likely to be serious and is certainly a persistent one that will cause a lot of pain and suffering. It has been pointed out that at the lower end of the spectrum—nought to three months, which still includes cases of pain and discomfort lasting a significant time—the proposed sum is £235. The Law Society’s briefing compares that with the amount of compensation that somebody might get for a flight that has been delayed for three hours, which could be considerably in excess of that amount. As well as the matter of principle, there is the point that the actual financial compensation is being minimised for no good reason.