Defendant lawyers to oppose small claims limit rise
Defendant lawyers say they will put forward an ‘independent and principled’ stance on personal injury reforms that will differ from the one taken by insurers.
The Forum of Insurance Lawyers has said it opposes moves to increase the small claims limit to £5,000 for personal injury and to remove general damages for minor soft-tissue injuries.
The proposals were put forward in November by chancellor George Osborne and lawyers are awaiting the publication of a consultation that will explain in detail how they would work.
FOIL has inclined towards supporting insurers on major civil justice reform in recent years, but the organisation says it is ‘regrettably’ unable to support the Association of British Insurers on this issue.
‘It is unfortunate that there has not been a willingness on the part of the government to wait until the effects of recent reforms have come to fruition before proposing further change,’ said FOIL chief executive Laurence Besemer (pictured).
‘What’s needed is a well thought through package of measures to bring about the government’s objectives.’
The group says it will not join any claimant alliance to oppose reform, but instead will try to persuade the government to adopt proposals which limit the changes to whiplash claims and not personal injury more generally.
It believes a more widespread increase in the small claims limit would create 'claims inflation', raise costs by increasing the number of litigants in person, and do nothing to counter fraud.
Duncan Rutter, FOIL's president, said: ‘If the small claims limit is to be increased, a move we would caution against in view of the likely consequences, FOIL believes that the change should be introduced alongside a number of measures to make sure the new regime is workable.
‘FOIL members would like to see online access to justice for claimants, whether through the portal or by way of a new online process, which should make allowance for individuals with limited access to technology; better regulation of claims management companies; and a process allowing claimants to value their own claims.’
The government has said its changes will result in around £40 being taken off the cost of each car insurance premium. The consultation is expected within the coming weeks, with implementation likely by April 2017.