…The Hot Topic!
The government indicated this week that their planned reforms to personal injury claims may not fully come into effect until 2018, however, they have implied that it is “full steam ahead” with the changes which will see the “small claims” limit, for personal injury, increased from £1,000.00 to £5,000.00 and the total removal of damages for low value injury claims in smaller cases. How many members of the ordinary public think that £5,000 is a “small” amount? How long would it take a family of four to save £5,000? How long would it take someone on minimum wage to save £5,000?
Of importance to legal professionals AND members of the public is the fact that the increase to the small claims limit does not need legislation to be passed – therefore this could be implemented much sooner than any of the other proposals. The government also intend to remove the right to claim compensation for “whiplash”. (The term “whiplash” has been hijacked by anti-claimant insurers and it is now being used as a backhanded offensive and insulting reference to what is a painful and disturbing injury to the neck.) Anyone who has suffered will know that whiplash is a real and painful condition. Instead of “whiplash” why don’t we call it what it is? – A trauma injury to the neck, caused by the sudden acceleration and deceleration of the neck and head.
Despite what we are told by the government, via the media, car insurance prices are actually highly likely to rise for the third consecutive year – the changes to personal injury claims will not make a difference. This year we saw an 8% increase to insurance prices! (Compared to less than 1% in other insurance areas).
Car insurance companies blame high claims inflation and suggest that tougher lines on whiplash claims are needed because they “account for a quarter of insurance payouts”. Insurers also claim to have not made a profit……*innocent face*.
The insurers say that premiums will reduce by £40.00 but this is not a legitimate guarantee and let’s be honest here, the insurers do not seem to have a good history with passing savings on to the public. The only beneficiaries will be the banks and shareholders of insurance groups and the government who, arguably, receive “donations” from certain sectors of the financial world.
Those of you that have suffered with a trauma injury to the neck will know that it can spread to the shoulders, neck, back, sometimes to the arms and the chest. It can be extremely serious and painful. Significant pain and discomfort can last a few days to several months. The changes by the government will only affect victims of such trauma negatively and the wider members of the public will not see the so called benefits i.e. decrease in premium costs.
Further, raising the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 could rule out claims for things like a fractured clavicle or fractured ankle “where a full recovery takes place within about one to two years” (see the “Judicial Studies College Guidelines on Damages for Personal Injuries”) – they will not be valued at more than £5,000 yet those injured in this way will experience significant and often serious pain and discomfort, loss of earnings, medical costs, potentially for between 1 to 2 years!
This is because legal costs will not be recoverable and therefore, many solicitors and barristers will be unable to finance the representation. The government claim that claimants suffering from “minor” injuries do not need legal representation anyway!
This is yet another way of eroding legal rights in particular the right to legal representation. However, it is being done in a not so obvious way, and the blame is being placed upon those who make a claim from the insurance pot because they have been injured through no fault of their own.
Isn’t the purpose of insurance to cover such things? So, rather than sue one another for personal monies we obtain insurance which will cover us in the event of an accident?
The plans for reform are still in the consultation period and will be until January 2017. It is highly likely that they will be passed, almost certain in fact, but maybe you could write to your local MP?
Along with that option, if you, or a member of your family or friends have been involved in an accident within the last 3 years get in touch with us now before it may be too late!
By Katie Parkinson,
Paralegal & Practice Manager,
West Lancashire Law.