Justice minister Sir Oliver Heald has shown no indication the government will back down over any of its proposals for personal injury reforms.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate on Wednesday, Heald appeared to suggest he was still convinced insurers will pass on the savings from reforms.
A consultation closed last Friday asking about raising the small claims court limit to £5,000 and reducing – or scrapping altogether – general damages for soft tissue injuries.
Labour MP Rob Marris, a former partner at claimant firm Thompsons, had called the debate and set out the case against reform.
But Heald responded by asking whether it was ‘really right that motorists should each pay £40 a year extra, simply so that the sort of solicitors firms he referred to can continue to do work on these very small claims?’.
He stated that the number of road claims has gone up from 460,000 in 2005-06 to 770,000 in 2015-16, and that 90% of them are for whiplash at a time when roads are getting safer and cars have seen road safety improvements.
Heald said: ‘If we can save £40 per head on motor insurance policies, clearly those are issues that we should be consulting on and considering very seriously.
‘Also, it is worth bearing in mind that the £1,000 limit for these cases was set in 1991, more than 25 years ago. Since then, the small claims limit for everything else has gone up to £10,000, so the review is very much needed.’
He suggested that litigants would still be able to bring their own cases before the small claims court, and they could try to reach an agreement with their lawyer about how their case is funded.
‘Of course, the point is that they cannot recover costs, but there is no ban on taking legal advice, though clearly people would need to look at the economics of that,’ added Heald.
Earlier in the debate, one of the most prominent advocates for reform, Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, appeared unsure about how far the consultation extends.
Philp said he could ‘fully accept’ that where a cyclist or motorist has broken a rib, wrist or leg, their claim is ‘perfectly valid and verifiable and should be allowed to proceed’.
When Marris pointed out the £5,000 small claims limit would apply to those cases as well, Philp replied: ‘Well, certainly the consultation document refers on its front page to soft tissue injuries.
‘I am sure that the minister will consider how that might apply to broken bones, but the title of the consultation refers to soft tissue injuries only.’