AXA’s technical director, David Williams still says the Civil Liability Bill’s journey through parliament remains in the balance
“I’m only about 55% sure it will go through,” he said.
The bill, which includes reforms regarding whiplash claims, a tariff on motor injuries, as well as the discount rate, has gone through its second committee stage in the House of Lords, where peers slammed it’s whiplash reform plans. Last week saw the House of Commons Justice Select Committee recommend scrapping the planned increase in the small claims threshold, which would deny claimants the right to recoup legal expenses on soft tissue injury claims.
And while Williams thinks the bill is in good shape, he is not convinced it is good enough to go all the way through.
He said: “I am happy with it and I think it’s right for the consumer as it will have a positive impact on premiums, but I’m still not convinced it will go through.”
The bill has proved to be very controversial, with insurers and lawyers, specifically claimant lawyers, locked in a lobbying war.
Donna Scully, director at Carpenters Group says the reforms are “a big departure from where we are now” and isn’t convinced the bill will work on the ground.
“Don’t be blinded by the money. I think everyone is getting blinded by the money and they haven’t considered part B. How is the bill going to work in the real world? I don’t think it will work.”
Despite this, Scully thinks the bill will be passed, and the most lawyers can hope for is more information and a better debate.
But Williams explained that the presence of lawyers within the Houses could stifle the bill’s journey.
“If you look at parliament, there are a lot of lawyers and claimant lawyer-backed unions who will lose good income,” he said. “They will be lobbying against it, and therefore their MPs will do as they’re told.”
For the bill to pass through the House of Lords, ABI director general Huw Evans said in an interview with Insurance Times that the Liberal Democrats would be vital, as there is a much larger presence of Lib Dems in the House of Lords compared to the Commons.
Williams said that he agrees with a lot of what is in the bill.
“I like the idea of there being a tariff. You’re talking simple claims.
“It is wrong that currently, the amount of compensation you get is more based on how good your lawyer is, how crap the claims handler is, or what sort of mood either of them is in. That’s not how it should be. So, I love the idea of having a tariff.
But, he thinks to put two of the bills key components together, in one Bill, was risky.
“I think bundling the discount rate with whiplash reforms, two contentious issues, that is asking for trouble.”
So what does Williams think will happen to the Bill?
“There will be some refinements. Some claimant lawyers are saying ‘you won’t see any of the money, so one of the Lords said ‘let’s mandate some reporting.’
“I know some people are a bit nervous about that, but why? I’m all for that.
“I’m still not convinced it will go through though. I’m only 55% confident, so I am not counting any chickens.”
One of the major selling points of the bill is the notion that it will help reduce fraudulent claims.
Scully believes the new way the small claims portal will be set up, to allow claims management companies in, will result in more exaggerated claims and therefore, will bump up claims prices and not sort the fraud issue.
“A claimant might not have time to go through the portal, so they will get either their broker to do it for them, or they will hire a claims handler. And there are some bad claims handlers.
”If the bad ones are given access to the portal, there is no reason they won’t exaggerate a claim just to get more money through commission.”
But Williams thinks that with less money in the system, law firms and CMCs will be put off going after whiplash claims.
“Because there will be less money in the system, less money for third parties to earn, it will discourage people from trying to persuade people to exaggerate or make up a claim.”
The bill is now due to go through the report stage in the House of Lords. A date has not yet been announced.