Thousands of people have signed a petition opposing chancellor George Osborne’s plan to raise the small claims track for personal injury claims.
Osborne (pictured) announced in this week’s spending review that he plans to consult on raising the threshold from £1,000 to £5,000.
The Gazette understands that although the policy was promoted as helping to bring down car insurance premiums, the consultation will include plans for all personal injury claims.
Proposals to abolish general damages for ‘minor’ soft-tissue injuries will be effective from April 2017. However it is thought that the small claims limit change could be introduced as early as next spring.
A petition started on the government’s petitions website, asking for the threshold to stay at £1,000, had attracted more than 8,500 signatures by Friday afternoon.
The introduction to the petition says the changes will restrict access to justice for thousands of people, and will put firms of solicitors out of business.
It adds that the chance of each motorist getting £40 off their insurance, based on the insurance industry saving around £1bn, is ‘so slim there is no incentive for the public to have the small claims track limit increased’.
At 10,000 signatures, the government will have to respond to the petition, and at 100,000 it would be considered for debate in parliament.
Listed legal services provider Fairpoint, which has bought the firms Simpson Millar and Coleman-ctts in recent years, issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange this week to quell any concerns about profitability for next year.
The statement said: ‘The notion of extending the small claims limit has been a topic of debate for some time and following the acquisition of Colemans LLP and its class-leading legal processing centre in August 2015, the group has an operational capability designed specifically in anticipation of such changes.
‘As such the group is well positioned to take advantage of these market changes.’
Redde PLC, which acquired Cardiff firm NewLaw under its previous name Helphire last year, said the activities likely to be affected by Osborne’s plans account for just 2.5% of group revenue.
Its statement to the stock exchange said: ‘The board of Redde notes that the insurance industry has long complained of the effects of fraudulent injury claims and Redde welcomes the consultation exercise in the new year which should seek ways to ensure that fraudulent claimants and firms that support them are eliminated without disadvantaging genuine claimants.
‘However Redde believes that a broad-brush approach that would prevent genuine claimants seeking rightful redress would meet with resistance from many champions of consumer rights. ‘
Meanwhile, listed firm Slater and Gordon suffered another day of struggle, with its share price dropping 26.6% in value on the Australian stock exchange.