The Law Society has hit out at plans to raise the small claims limit for all road traffic injuries to £5,000, claiming the move will not only deny justice to accident victims but also clog up the courts.
A spokesperson said: ’These changes will deprive motorists and their passengers from being able to recover the cost of essential legal advice for any injuries worth £5,000 and under when a negligent driver crashes into their car.
’While we are glad that the MoJ has listened to some of our concerns, and has decided to restrict the increase in the small claims limit to £2,000 for personal injury cases other than road traffic claims, we cannot accept that a £5,000 limit for motoring claims is reasonable.
’The government is treating injuries that would be regarded as grievous bodily harm in the criminal courts as small claims. A limit of £5,000 will mean injuries including facial scarring, fractured ribs, a bruised chest and whiplash to the neck would be considered as ”small claims”. This means people will be forced to bring claims themselves without expert legal advice.
’The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) does not appear to have properly considered the fact that this will clog up the court system creating a David and Goliath situation where people recovering from their injuries, deprived of legal advice, have no choice but to act for themselves.
’Those defending claims meanwhile are likely to be able to pay for legal advice. The increase in the number of litigants in person that will result from these changes will have serious consequences for the courts.’
Chancery Lane hotly disputes the government narrative underpinning the proposals that reform is all about curbing fraudulent claims.
The spokesperson added: ’Fraudulent claims are repellent but they should be dealt with by targeting the fraudsters - not the vast majority of honest claimants who have been injured and bring genuine claims.’
The Society has, however, campaigned for some of the changes proposed in the bill and it welcomed a proposal to ditch the practice of insurers offering compensation for whiplash ahead of any medical assessment. This should be extended to all claims, the Society argues.
But like the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Chancery Lane is dismissive of the government’s insistence that reform will cut motor premiums.
The spokesperson added: ’We are utterly sceptical of the notion that off the back of these changes motorists will have their insurance premiums cut as the insurance industry has significant form falling short when it comes to passing savings to its customers.’
As the Society pointed out, the Association of British Insurers conceded to the Commons Justice Select Committee during a session on personal injury reform that the insurance industry saved ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’ from reforms to personal injury in 2013 and that the number of whiplash claims has come down in the last year.
The findings of an economic study by Compass Lexecon also show that gains from the government plans will boost insurers’ profits.
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Courts bill: whiplash plans will clog up courts to boost insurer profits, says Law Society