Lawyers’ groups are bracing themselves for a prolonged fight with the government over curbs to personal injury claims, after a minister dashed hopes of a retreat on the controversial plans.
Justice minister Lord Faulks told personal injury lawyers last week that the Ministry of Justice intends to press ahead with proposals to scrap general damages for whiplash claims and raise the small claims limit to £5,000 for all personal injury claims.
The plans were originally announced last November by chancellor George Osborne (pictured). However, the fact that a promised consultation has yet to materialise had raised hopes that the government might backtrack.
But Faulks told the annual conference of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers that the government plans to consult after the EU referendum and to implement changes through a mixture of primary and secondary legislation in 2017. He lambasted ‘a substantial industry that encourages unnecessary, inappropriate or even fraudulent claims through cold calling and other social nuisances’.
Faulks’ remarks were immediately condemned as an attack on access to justice. Campaign group A2J said that Faulks ‘has made it clear he is not interested in justice for millions of ordinary people who, thanks to the government’s plans, will be denied the right to redress for injuries received through no fault of their own’.
The Law Society has promised a ‘robust’ response to the consultation. Chief executive Catherine Dixon told the conference that reform of the personal injury sector implemented in 2013 needs more time to be analysed before further changes are made.
‘The government seemingly believes that plans to raise the small claims limit for personal injury claims to £5,000 and abandon general damages for “minor” whiplash injuries will help stop fraudulent claims. We disagree,’ she said.