October 23, 2018

Good news for cyclists – “vulnerable” road users will be exempt from changes to the law governing personal injury claims

Posted in Injury, Road accidents
Cycling safety

You may have heard of the Civil Liability Bill, which proposes sweeping changes to the way people make claims if they were injured in a road traffic accident. My view is that the Bill is ill conceived and has been introduced to satisfy the insurance industry – we wrote on the proposed changes to the law recently, but did you know that there is at least now some good news for cyclists?

Cyclists, Motorcyclists and other “vulnerable road users” will be exempt from these changes.

In some rare good news for cyclists, the Government last month announced that “vulnerable road users” will be exempt from the effects of the Civil Liability Bill.

Cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and “anyone else on the road who is not in a motor vehicle” will not be subject to the £5,000 limit on small claims and will not see their damages reduced according to (a far meaner) tariff system.  Without this exemption, cyclists would have had to choose between representing themselves or paying for legal representation out of their on pocket when bringing a compensation claim for (no fault) injuries where damages for pain and suffering did not exceed £5,000.  For example, a shoulder injury that took around a year to resolve would have failed to satisfy the £5,000 threshold.  You can see what this might mean for those seeking access to justice, insurers defending claims will have deep pockets to pay for lawyers against unrepresented individuals.

Some see this as a logical exemption whilst others query why an individual’s mode of transport should be a relevant consideration.

Still, we’re in troubling times

The Government’s attitude has clearly been influenced by powerful insurance industry lobbying suggesting that innocent victims are fraudulently bringing claims, that we have a ‘compensation culture’ and that insurers should collect compulsory insurance premiums without properly compensating innocent accident victims.  There has been a promise that insurance premiums will fall but that hasn’t happened following reforms about five years ago so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The evidence I have seen actually suggests the contrary is true and that it is a sad state of affairs that some accident victims are having their access to proper legal advice and justice taken away. For example, this report from APIL, fraud is actually only found in 0.22% of all motor related claims, and injury claims account for a fraction of that figure (CRU and ABI 2017 fraud figures).

Furthermore, APIL’s research shows that despite a fall in the number of claims by 17% in 2017-2018, we are still seeing insurance premiums rise; motor insurance premiums rose by almost 10% between 2016 – 2017 and during the same period the cost to insurers of motor related personal injury claims fell by about the same amount.

The message we could take from all of this is that blameless victims are no longer seen as deserving of full and fair compensation. A feeling that the government is tackling the wrong issues will not be unfamiliar to many cyclists who will have seen ink wasted over licence plates for bicycles and the menace that cyclists pose to society - cyclists, however, will likely be familiar with feeling somewhat despondent having been marginalised for so long.

The introduction of this Bill and the proposed fivefold increase to the small claims limit for road traffic accidents demonstrates an unrealistic expectation that injured people can deal with complex legal and medical matters themselves relegating the majority of road traffic accident claims to the small claims court which, APIL reminds us, is designed for contractual disputes, not complex diagnoses of medical conditions and assessment of appropriate damages.

The Bill has yet to receive royal assent but is scheduled to proceed to the report stage in the House of Commons this week.

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