A claimant lobby group has demanded action from the government over what it says is a major flaw in the Civil Liability Bill.
The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) says the legislation in its current form will result in most injured children losing their rights to seek redress.
The government has said cases involving ‘protected parties’ including children are excluded from the increase in the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000. This was supposed to protect the most vulnerable groups by ensuring costs could still be recovered.
But there is no such exemption from the second strand of the reforms, the new set of tariffs for injuries suffered in an RTA. This means that children with injuries lasting up to nine months can expect to receive a maximum of £765 in compensation – placing them under the old small claims limit and leaving them without representation. The problem would be exacerbated if, as the government wants, the small claims limit for all other personal injury claims rises to £2,000.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, director of ACSO, said that unless the law is amended, minors and protected parties will be stranded in a ‘civil justice no man’s land’.
He said: ‘They can’t use the new portal, they can’t use the old portal and so the only option would be a traditional, paper-based process including a trip to court. However, caps on solicitors’ fees mean no lawyers would be able to take on such cases.’
The organisation has written to justice minister Lord Keen of Elie asking for amendments to the act to remove children and protected parties from the tariff. This would raise most claimants’ damages above £1,000 and enable them to use the existing claims portal.
ACSO points out the availability of pre-funded products such as legal expenses insurance would support only a limited number of people: the government assumes 50% have relevant cover, but many policies do not cover children.
Labour MP Ellie Reeves, a member of the justice select committee, said: ‘Ministers have failed to think through the impact of this legislation, and the results is that tens of thousands of injured children and protected parties will be denied access to justice.’
The reforms are set to be implemented in April 2020 when the new portal goes live. Testing is due to begin before the end of this year.