Head of civil justice attacks UK’s shameful record on rehabilitation

The Master of the Rolls last week attacked the UK’s shameful track record on looking after accident victims and criticised lawyers’ “ignorance” of the benefits of rehabilitation. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers told delegates at last week’s Forum of Insurance Lawyers annual conference that “we should be ashamed” of the treatment of the victims of serious personal injuries. In particular, he cited the following statistics: in Scandinavia a paraplegic has a 50 per cent chance of returning to full employment, in the US the figure is 42 per cent, but in the UK it is only 14 per cent.

“The amount of money in this country we pay to support the victims of accidents is per capita, approximately twice as much as is spent in the US,” Lord Phillips said. “And the difference is explained largely by rehabilitation.” He argued that, if the Association of British Insurers “got their sums right”, ministers could save in the region of £1.3bn in benefit payments through promoting rehabilitation.

He went on to argue that lawyers were partly responsible for not raising the profile of rehabilitation. “The first problem is ignorance,” he said. “There are still far too many lawyers who are unaware of the benefits of rehabilitation. Secondly there is inertia – apathy might not be too strong a word. Whereas the majority of lawyers acting for claimants will react positively when an offer of rehabilitation is made to their client, there are not very many who set out positively to seek it.” Earlier in the year the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a report on employer’s liability, highlighting concerns that premiums had shot up by 50 per cent since 1997. The DWP is expected to publish a second paper shortly.

Lord Phillips called upon the DWP to “reaffirm a commitment to take forward rehabilitation and provide more proposals on how it may be delivered” in its new paper.