The government is currently considering proposals to increase the small claims court limit in personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000, cap compensation for ‘minor’ injuries suffered in road traffic accidents and implement a tariff system for more significant injuries.
Proposed reforms are based on the belief that reducing claims for whiplash and ‘minor’ injuries will save insurance companies millions of pounds per year so, therefore, removing the right to claim compensation for those who suffer injury as a result of negligent driving, in order that the insurers for the negligent driver can save money!
We have all been hounded by cold calls trying to persuade us to claim compensation for an injury, often when we are not even injured. This type of cold calling by claims management companies (which solicitors are quite rightly banned from doing) generates a false perception that obtaining compensation for personal injury is easy, even when there is no injury.
The reality is that a personal injury claim is a costly and complicated process and people are not awarded compensation unless there is proof that their accident is the result of someone else’s negligence and medical evidence is obtained confirming an injury has been caused. In fact, genuine accident victims are usually reluctant to claim compensation thinking their injuries are too ‘minor’ or that they are jumping on the compensation bandwagon. An injury which attracts an award of around £5,000 means that an accident victim would have suffered medical symptoms for a period of at least two years. This is not a ‘minor’ injury and the injured person will often require ongoing medical and rehabilitation treatment to assist with their recovery. Soft tissue and whiplash injuries may appear to be uncomplicated initially, but further on down the line more significant injuries may be uncovered and develop into claims well-exceeding the £5,000 mark and it is therefore important not to settle claims too early. The majority of people making personal injury claims have suffered much more significant injuries with long-lasting effects such as broken limbs, permanent scarring, psychological damage and often significant financial losses as a result of their injuries.
The proposed changes will have a hugely detrimental impact on the ability of innocent accident victims to seek redress and justice. Genuine claimants will not be able to afford the legal help they need to bring claims and will be left to fight with the insurance companies and their lawyers and forced to navigate the court process themselves. This could in fact lead to a higher volume of people making small claims, putting a strain on the court system and causing an epidemic of cold calling from claims management companies as they rush to take advantage of vulnerable victims who cannot afford proper legal representation.
For more information please contact a member of our Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Team on 01279 755777.