With huge numbers continuing to follow the Government’s advice and “stay at home”, there are invariably fewer vehicles on our roads reducing the likelihood of collisions, with a consequent reduction in claims frequency. Indeed, such is the extent of the current (and, likely, continued) reduction that one of the UK’s largest motor insurers has already announced it will be refunding a fixed sum to customers in lieu of a share of premiums. This followed news that the French mutual insurer, MAIF – which, being a mutual, needn’t account to shareholders – had begun refunding a share of premiums to customers (or offering the altruistic the opportunity to donate their entitlement to frontline charities) at the beginning of April. In the US, a number of insurers have instead committed to slashing the cost of renewals until October 2020.
With fewer vehicles on the roads, drivers must resist any temptation to drive at excessive speed given the consequence for occupants generally proves to be catastrophic; the potential for higher-value injury claims must not be underestimated. On 25 April, the Government’s daily briefing directly addressed some 'extraordinary dangerous driving' during lockdown referencing one driver, who was caught speeding at 134mph in a 40mph zone, and others travelling at speeds of 150mph on the M1 motorway. Many will not realise that, owing to common general exclusions, drivers racing vehicles may be uninsured in the event of an accident.
With speeding in mind, a timely reminder that, whilst s. 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 would exempt emergency vehicles from prevailing speed limits when responding to emergencies, note there is no corresponding exemption from the duty to take reasonable care for the safety of other road-users. Any collisions arising in connection with emergency responses to COVID-19 calls are unlikely to relieve at-fault users of civil liability, or their insurers from the obligation to compensate victims.
Turning to vehicle damage claims, we previously reported here about how the pandemic might affect claims for credit hire or loss of use, advocating that compensators deploy intervention proactively; the expectation being that minimising disruption for claimants by repairing and returning damaged vehicles as quickly as feasible should extricate them from prolonged periods of hire and mitigate the extent of any loss of use claims.
Finally, the key indirect consequence of the pandemic was revealed in a written statement from the Justice Secretary on 21 April: “… The current Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the medical, legal and insurance sectors… [such that] we have therefore decided to delay the implementation of the whiplash reform programme to April 2021…”