The government intends to end the right to compensation for minor whiplash injuries.
In his November spending review, George Osborne said that whiplash claims costs the country £2 billion a year, an average of £90 per motor insurance policy, which is “out of all proportion to any genuine injury suffered”.
He therefore proposed that the small claims limit should increase to £5,000 for all personal injury claims. He also proposed a ban on general damages for ‘minor’ motor accident injuries that became effective in April 2017.
He expects these changes to save the insurance industry over £1 billion that can be passed on to consumers through reduced premiums.
However, Jonathan Wheeler, president of the Association of Personal Injury lawyers, said:
• The insurance industry has failed to live up to past promises to pass on savings • Whiplash claims have fallen by more than a third • The removal of damages would show a “callous indifference” to the suffering of victims
The Law Society is also concerned, because most personal injury claims due to a road traffic accident are worth less than £5,000, so won’t be covered by the new small claims limit.
President, Johnathon Smithers, said: “These proposals will completely undermine the right of ordinary citizens to receive full and proper compensation from those that have injured them through negligence. [They] will stop people obtaining legal advice for all personal injury claims below £5,000, and stop people claiming for often debilitating injuries arising from road traffic accidents if these injuries are considered minor.”
It’s not just whiplash.
Any personal injury claim, no matter what the value, can include serious or debilitating injuries. If the limit changes to £5,000, injuries such as facial scarring would be considered a ‘small claim’.
Legal rights can be very complex, especially when they arise from the fault of an employer or road traffic accident.
If the Small Claims Court limit is raised to £5,000, genuine victims will not be able to afford the legal help they need to bring a claim.
People recovering from their injuries will have to bring a claim as a ‘litigant in person’. This can be very unfair when those defending the claim can afford to pay for legal advice, or the defendant simply denies liability.
Sue Brown, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, said: “A substantial increase in the small claims limit and the removal of the right to claim general damages for low-value whiplash will have a hugely detrimental impact on the ability of accident victims to seek redress and justice. It cannot be right to [remove] the right to claim compensation… in order that the insurers for the negligent driver can save money.”
In 2013, the government opted not to increase the small claims limit from £1,000-£5,000 after a report by the transport select committee indicating that there were no adequate safeguards to protect genuine claimants.
Of course, we hope you do not suffer a road traffic accident, and that if you do, you do not suffer serious injury. We also hope that your right to proper legal representation remains.
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