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Lawyers make final plea to Lord Chancellor ahead of whiplash reforms deadline

Personal injury solicitors and law firms have rallied round to urge the Lord Chancellor to rethink the proposed changes to small claims limits.

The period to hear responses to the proposals ends on 6 January 2017, with the full announcement of the new legislation due in April. Ahead of the deadline this week, personal injury solicitors have called on the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, to rethink the controversial proposals.

The changes proposed by the government will increase the ‘small claim limit’ from the current level of £1,000 to £5,000. This means that any claim with damages expected to be below the £5,000 will be heard in the small claims court, which does not allow the Claimant to reclaim their legal fees.

Liz Truss
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor

The government says that this will save an average of £40 on every motor insurance policy, due to the amount of whiplash claims that are currently made, but personal injury solicitors across the UK have debunked this – with some even setting up a campaign to challenge the government’s position on whiplash claims.

As the consultation deadline approaches, lawyers have warned that the government is placing the interests of insurance companies ahead of innocent people who suffer ‘minor’ but debilitating injuries. Personal injury lawyers insist that the proposed reforms ignore the financial burden that will be passed from insurance companies to the NHS to pay for treatment and rehabilitation of injured people who would not be able to afford to make a claim.

Amanda Stevens of Hudgell Solicitors recently suggested that the ‘government seems intent on removing this fundamental right’ of claiming for pain, suffering and the loss of amenity if injured due to the negligence of another.

Stevens went on to point out that, according to the insurance industry’s own research, up to 10% of motorists who suffer soft tissue injuries go on to develop much more serious and long-term health problems if it is left untreated.

Stevens said:

“Most of the consultation is unfairly skewed in favour of insurers. It seeks to shift the burdens you would expect to fall on them onto innocent injured people and state bodies that will pick up the tab for unmet need.

“There is an underlying implication that many ordinary people, lawyers, and doctors are seeking to dishonestly make a profit from insurance claims – it’s absurd and offensive. There have already been massive cuts to the cost of these claims as well as a fall in the number of claims in recent years, and yet insurance premiums continue to go up and up.

“The insurance industry itself has been unable to produce any reliable or compelling data to support its claims of widespread fraud. So the many innocent people are to lose out due to the actions of a dishonest few – this is no way to make government policy and I fervently hope Liz Truss will think again.”

Although the government’s aim with the current reforms is to reduce car insurance premiums, the changes could be expanded to take into account other personal injury claims like medical negligence and employer’s liability – further impacting the ability of innocent people to seek compensation for injuries and loss.