Lord Justice Jackson has hinted that he might recommend increasing the small claims limit for personal injury cases if there is no deal on fast-track fixed costs, the Gazette can reveal.
His last public address before going into report-writing purdah is being seen as a warning shot across the bows of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.
Last month APIL walked out of the talks which Jackson had initiated on extending fixed costs to ‘fast track’ claims, which are worth up to £25,000. APIL said it had pulled out of the talks because they were focusing solely on figures rather than whether or not fixed fees were appropriate for the fast track.
Addressing the Civil Court Users Association conference in Leicester, Jackson said that among the issues he has to consider are whether to propose a comprehensive system of fixed costs in the fast-track, and whether the small claims limit for personal injury should be raised.
‘Although these issues are separate, there may possibly be a link between the two,’ he said. ‘On one view, it may be easier to keep the small claims limit for personal injury claims at £1,000, if fixed costs are implemented across the fast-track.’
Claimant lawyers have vigorously resisted any change to the small claims limit for years. In claims below the limit, the claimant is unable to claim back their solicitor’s costs if they win.
APIL president John McQuater said it was ‘inappropriate’ to link the small claims limit with fast-track fixed costs, noting that it was only last year that the government ruled out increasing the limit. ‘What’s changed since then?’ he demanded. ‘Nothing.’