Key features of Lord Young’s report
Background: “If there’s a blame, there’s a claim”
Lord Young notes the perception of a growing compensation culture which creates a burden on members of society and businesses that they will be embroiled in costly litigation following trivial accidents; often for the benefit of referral agencies and lawyers. His focus is therefore on reducing the claims culture surrounding minor accidents and preventing people from absolving themselves from personal responsibility for their own actions.
“The aim is to free businesses from unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and the fear of having to pay out unjustified damages claims and legal fees. Above all it means applying common sense not just to compensation, but to everyday decisions once again.”
The important recommendations arising from the report are:
Recognising the cost of litigation is a burden to both the public and private sectors, Lord Young suggests:
- Implementation of the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson;
- A simplified claims process with fixed costs for personal injury claims up to £10,000, with the potential to include low value clinical negligence claims;
- Restricting the operation of claims management companies (including greater control over the volume and content of advertising); and
- Protection of the “good samaritan”.
Low hazard workplaces
Low hazard workplaces are described as places where the risk of injury or death is minimal. This includes shops, offices and classrooms.
Lord Young’s proposals are for:
- Simplified procedures for risk assessment; and
- Involvement of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to simplify the procedure for businesses in low hazard environments to demonstrate compliance with the regulations.
Heath and safety
In order to encourage proper application of health and safety, Lord Young recommends:
- Accreditation for health and safety consultants;
- A Code of Practice for those businesses involved in lower risk activities; and
- Combining all regulations into a single Act.
Other key recommendations
- There should be consultation with the insurance industry to ensure worthwhile activities are not curtailed;
- A simplification of processes so that there is a shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk-benefit assessment;
- Where local authorities ban events on grounds of health and safety, citizens should be able to seek redress via the Ombudsman (which is subject to a fast track process to ensure decisions can be overturned within two weeks);
- Police officers and fire fighters should not be at risk of investigation or prosecution under health and safety legislation; and
- A voluntary display ratings system for food safety and health and safety (to be combined).
The report sets out a road map for implementation with the significant events being:
- Autumn 2010: Consultation on Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals in relation to reform of civil litigation.
- Spring 2011: Consultation for reform of civil justice.
- March 2011: Consultation seeking to consolidate health and safety legislation into a single set of regulations.
- April 2011: Introduction of Conduct Rules for claims management companies.
- April 2012: The aim of introducing an extension to the RTA Scheme to include personal injury claims.
Lord Young has moved away from an outright ban of claims management companies. Instead, he proposes to implement a Code of Conduct; whereas a key recommendation of the Jackson Report was to ban the payment of referral fees. Lord Young does, however, support the investigation into referral fees (including a public consultation) being undertaken by the Legal Services Board.
What this report does not suggest is further legislation in this area. The tenor of the recommendations is simplification and consolidation of the existing framework.
An ambitious roadmap running to 2012 is outlined and includes a consultation on the reform of civil justice; at this stage the scope of the consultation is not made clear. Other areas are also not clear; for example, the precise nature of the ‘modification in procedures’ of the current fixed cost RTA Scheme to extend to other types of compensation claim.
Nevertheless, compensators will welcome the clear endorsement of Lord Justice Jackson and the timetable within which it will be implemented, together with the stated intent that these recommendations will be put into effect.