Conservative MPs are calling on the Government to protect the rights of genuine personal injury claimants and has warned that they could lose out if there is a knee jerk reaction to abuses in the personal injury market.
Chairman of the justice select committee, Bob Neill, has also called on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to focus its attentions on rogue personal injury solicitors instead of wasting its energies on arguments with the Law Society over independent regulation.
Mr Neill spoke at a fringe meeting on civil justice at the Conservative Party conference, which was organised by the Social Market Foundation and sponsored by Access to Justice.
He argued that the insurance industry “has got to do a lot more to make its case” regarding whiplash claim reforms.
Whilst admitting that there is “some abuse” he counselled against an overreaction which he warned might “prevent genuine claims coming forward.”
Conservative MP Alberto Costa, a former solicitor, said it was “an inconvenient truth to the insurance industry that while we’ve seen over the last five years a significant decline in soft-tissue injury claims, there’s been not a penny of decline in car insurance premiums.”
He told delegates that “we need to be careful that we don’t take away our rights to damages and diminish the duty of care that we all owe to one another.”
Mr Costa also called on MPs to temper their language when discussing personal injury legal claims, saying that whiplash was a “terrible” name and should instead be referred to more accurately as a soft-tissue injury. “Whiplash is an injury like any other,” he said.
Both MPs also gave their backing to the idea of legal aid supporting early advice in a range of areas.
Mr Neill claimed that the significant reduction in the use of mediation in divorce cases was due to early Legal Aid advice being unavailable to steer the parties in the right direction.
He also confirmed that he intends to fight for a ban on the use of paid McKenzie Friends, but admitted that his Government had “got it wrong” when it introduced employment tribunal fees – which were subsequently found to be unlawful and quashed by the Supreme Court.