Abolishing Personal Injuries Law? A reply to Lord Sumption
Lord Sumption has frequently delivered speeches that provoke public debate. His 2017 lecture to the Personal Injuries Bar Association will surely do so too. Its very title, a ‘ Project ’ of ‘ Abolishing Personal Injuries Law ’ , is incendiary. The provocation is welcome, and indeed overdue. As Lord Sumption observes, the high-water mark of reform came with New Zealand ’ s Accident Compensation Act in 1972. Although radical change was contemporaneously discussed, no other Commonwealth jurisdiction abolished negligence in favour of an accident insurance scheme. 1 The Pearson Royal Commission (1978) failed even to consider such a universal scheme. 2 Tort reformers such as PS Atiyah did not disguise their disappointment. 3 Professor Atiyah (and his editor, Peter Cane) have continued to urge reform through successive editions of Accidents, Compensation and the Law . 4 But the last new initiative from that quarter was Atiyah ’ s The Damages Lottery (1997). Since then, nothing has changed and the debate has virtually disappeared from view (in England at least). Lord Sumption has done tort lawyers, and law reform, a service by lending his authority to its revival.