The issue of whiplash has become “toxic” and the Law Society has decided not to engage publicly with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) on it, chief executive Des Hudson has revealed.
However, he said the Law Society has learned from the ABI and was playing the long game in the personal injury war.
In an interview with this site, Mr Hudson accepted that during the passage of LASPO, it would have been “more powerful” had the society “from an earlier stage been part of a collective voice… We should have done more to achieve that”.
But equally trying to create the kind of campaign around whiplash and the Jackson reforms currently being seen in legal aid was “massively difficult”.
“For us – and we’ve had a big internal debate here – the issue of whiplash became toxic and I took a decision internally here to stop talking about whiplash until we went to the [transport] select committee [last month]…
“I don’t there’s anything that we can say about whiplash that doesn’t help the very shrewd and well-funded, carefully orchestrated ABI campaign around whiplash.”
But Mr Hudson insisted that “the Law Society was in there pitching and really trying to make a difference” and that it has not given up.
“One of the things I’ve learned from how the insurance companies have played this is to plan long, spend heavily, and commit significant time. And the insurers have not heard the last of the Law Society’s views on this believe me. We will be in there pitching for the public interest and our member’s interest in helping people get access to justice for many a year to come.”
He said he was trying to move away from the Law Society being a “noisy critic” to focus more on effectively lobbying the government.
Mr Hudson said there are “very major questions” about whether the current business models used by some personal injury firms are sustainable, including not taking a success fee from damages.
This is part of the reason the Law Society this year chose to focus its annual advertising campaign just on personal injury, rather than promoting the solicitor brand more broadly as in previous years.
“I think that our PI practitioners and the public who need their services need all the help they can get,” he said. “And so, we need to focus on that but I want to stress that we think to right the wrongs that have been done by the government and the changes it’s made will take some years and we’re working here for long haul.”