People injured in road traffic accidents or at work will be denied justice if the Government fails to listen to expert representation, a local MP has warned.
The Government have concluded a consultation into reforming the soft injury claims process, which includes claims for injuries such as whiplash, that will see the small claims limit for personal injury claims raised from £1,000 to £5,000 and introduce caps on potential compensation awards. Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, has warned that these reforms will undermine access to justice and divert money from injured claimants into the pockets of insurance company bosses.
Toby recently met with representatives from local personal injury firms, Grayson’s Solicitors and Elliott Mather LLP, to discuss the impact on the claimants, solicitors and the courts.
“These reforms mean that the majority of claims for traffic accidents and injuries at work will now be diverted to the small claims courts, where you cannot claim for legal costs. This means people will be forced to represent themselves in court against experienced litigators hired by insurance companies. This will cause many people to not receive the proper compensation they deserve. The reforms are also being rushed through without proper consultation”.
The Government have admitted that if these reforms go ahead, insurance companies will gain at least £200m per year, with no guarantees that these savings will be passed on to customers.
Belinda Lancaster. Partner at Graysons Solicitors, which has an office on Saltergate in Chesterfield, said:
I believe that the proposals severely undermine people’s access to justice. Over the years my firm has helped thousands of clients win deserved compensation for all types of injuries – and maintain their reputations when fraud has been alleged in some cases. There is no doubt that without legal help these people would have been unlikely to pursue cases themselves against companies and insurance giants and their own legal teams, which is grossly unjust. The Small Claims Court was set up to deal with simple low value disputes, such as faulty goods. However, under the government’s plans, it would encompass injuries such as facial scarring or fractured ribs.
We will continue our campaign against these changes and if you think the proposals are unfair, you can have your say by signing the petition, which is open until 23.5.17, at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173099.”
Mary Honeyben, Solicitor & LLP member at Elliot Mather based on Low Pavement in Chesterfield, who also met with Toby, said:
In 2013 when the last reforms were implemented following pressure from insurance companies, motor insurance premiums were supposed to fall but instead these have
increased. The cost of claims has fallen by over 12% since then but consumers have not benefited from these savings.
These new proposals will affect not only whiplash claims but also all other types of injuries, including many work accidents. There will no longer be a level playing field. I have dealt with many claims where insurers have sought to settle claims quickly, before any proper evaluation of medical evidence and which we have then pursued and ultimately settled for far more than the original offers. Without proper advice, injured claimants risk under settling their claims and it is wrong that they should have to pay for their own legal costs, to the benefit of the insurance companies.
“I am regularly contacted by claimants going through the family court who have been denied legal aid due to recent cuts and are having to represent themselves. This is not only denying justice to ordinary people, but clogging up the courts and making it more difficult for judges to reach informed decisions. If these new reforms go through it means further injustice and pressure on the courts”.
Toby has now written to Justice Secretary, Liz Truss MP, to object to the reforms and request that the consultation process be reopened.