One of the most unsurprising consequences of restrictions on movement and the closures of many workplaces is fewer journeys requiring a motor vehicle. Fewer journeys mean fewer collisions, which in turn drives claims numbers down.
However, reduced vehicle use increases the risk of speeding vehicles on quieter roads, whilst numbers of cyclists and pedestrians exercise within the limits prescribed by the Government. Those collisions that do occur may therefore result in more serious injuries.
From a policy coverage perspective, the ABI have confirmed that NHS volunteers or 'key workers' do not need to contact their insurer to update their cover for additional and necessary journeys. They have also emphasised their desire to ensure claims are dealt with promptly, particularly for those key workers or supporting their communities.
Nonetheless, if insurers are unable to inspect vehicles and source alternative parts for repair, then the lack of availability of repair services will increase the need for storage facilities on a longer-term basis for damaged vehicles; supplying alternative vehicles will also be more pressing in certain circumstances.
There will be those who continue to drive for pleasure despite the restrictions on non-essential journeys. Should those individuals be involved in a collision, insurers may review their policy wordings to consider whether these claims can be excluded.
Similarly, the renewal of MOT certificates has been extended for six months where a test was due after 30 March 2020; policyholders should notify their insurers if their MOT has been delayed. If the insurer has not been notified of this delay, and a defect within the vehicle is the cause of a claim, then the insurer may again consider policy coverage.
When the restrictions on movement are eased, then the inevitable exodus of the general public to beaches, shopping centres, and other leisure activities might increase motor collisions. Similarly, the restart of large numbers of commuter journeys might increase traffic and collisions, particularly if some people are reluctant to revert to the use of public transport.
Many of the motor collisions which do occur will be inextricably linked to the whiplash reforms, now scheduled to be implemented in April 2021 after a further delay was announced. An increase in registered claims before the previously announced implementation date of August 2020 was expected to occur, taking advantage of the more generous damages awards for whiplash injuries, and driven by financial necessity in some cases. The further delay, whilst entirely reasonable given the unique circumstances we now find ourselves in, will allow greater numbers of claimants access to more generous whiplash damages.
Many of the issues we have identified previously in preparing for the reforms will need resolution ahead of April 2021. The Civil Procedure Rule Committee ("CPRC") may yet be delayed in providing the relevant CPR changes and pre-action protocols for the Official Injury Claim ("OIC") portal; urgent rule changes necessitated by the ongoing circumstances may take precedence in the coming months.
Originally Published 21 April, 2020
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