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King Canute or David & Goliath?

Posted by Anthony Hughes, managing director, Jackson Hughes Consulting

Hughes: unified campaign needed [1]

Hughes: unified campaign needed

We are told that there was another “high-level meeting” on 9 December between the government and senior members of the motor insurance industry. I’m getting a feeling of déjà vu as this all sounds very familiar and we know what happened last time such a meeting was held: insurers got just about what they asked for.

There has been a sea change since the Conservatives came to power, with insurers on the winning side of just about every argument. So will they win this one (the small claims and low-value whiplash reforms announced in the Autumn Statement) too, which many think will be the death knell for solicitors in the PI sector?

So what, if anything, can be done to challenge the proposals?

One thing is for certain – if any such opposition is to have a chance of success, then it must be very different to the LASPO experience, where the Association of British Insurers spoke with one voice for the insurance lobby, whilst their opponents proffered mixed messages from a disparate group. Moreover the legal challenges via judicial review failed spectacularly.

Sitting back and doing nothing is admitting defeat and that is not an option, but unlike LASPO I would suggest some change may have to be accepted to give any opposition credibility, as simply arguing for the status quo is unlikely to find favour.

Previous opposition has been based on the notion of access to justice and that got precisely nowhere. So what options are still open? Well, interestingly, credit hire – a real hobby horse for insurers and the ABI alike – could be a pointer. The only successful campaign I can remember in recent years was that run by Steve Evans and the Credit Hire Organisation in relation to the Competition & Markets Authority enquiry and the subsequent GTA (General Terms of Agreement) review. That was not based on points of principle but on hard facts and economic realities.

There is common ground if you look for it. For example, no one like fraud and nuisance calls. Let’s solve these problems, both of which will reduce frequency and claims costs, rather than taking the proverbial sledgehammer to smash the nut.

If the claimant lobby want to avoid drowning as the tide comes in, I would suggest: