How are personal injury claims changing and what could this mean for you?

Changes to personal injury law being debated by Parliament at the moment could have a huge impact on the way ordinary people are allowed to access justice. Personal injury law specialists from Browell Smith & Co Solicitors in Newcastle explain the law and what it means in practice.

The Civil Liability Bill has been in front of Parliament for many months now. One of its aims is to reduce the number of fraudulent whiplash claims and to lower insurance premiums in doing so.

However, it is proposing huge changes to the legal system to tackle a very small problem – whiplash claims have already been decreasing year-on-year.

These changes will deny justice to many thousands of people in the future. It is a move that will greatly help the insurance industry, but which is unlikely to see drivers saving significant amounts of money on their premiums. Motor industry estimates put the potential savings a little over £2 per month.

Now the Commons Justice Select Committee has published a report that casts doubt on the bill, especially if access to justice is going to be affected.

What changes are being proposed under the Civil Liability Bill?

In essence, the bill plans to make the small claims court handle any personal injury claims where the value is less than £2,000, or under £5,000 for road traffic accident claims.

This means that people making claims for whiplash, most of which are under £5,000 in value, will not be able to reclaim the cost of legal representation, and therefore will be expected to represent themselves in court. This is far from an easy thing to do, and likely to put most people off from doing it.

It goes against the founding principles of justice in Britain.

Why should we care?

This is the sort of thing that doesn’t seem important until you’ve been injured yourself, or until a loved one is injured.

We wrote a blog recently about people’s rights to pursue personal injury claims. It’s based on an ancient law and should be seen as a fundamental right of British people.

The erosion of any fundamental rights is a hugely dangerous and controversial decision.

If you suffer a whiplash injury that wasn’t your fault, there’s a chance you might have to take time off work as a result. You could lose income, mobility and, without proper rehabilitation, your symptoms could last for much longer.

The Civil Liability Bill is attempting to take away your right to be compensated for this.

What’s the latest update?

Now a Parliamentary Justice Committee has examined the proposals and confirmed what we’ve been saying for some time: that the changes, if they go ahead, will deny access to justice for many people.

The committee said it had “received compelling evidence” that the reforms would represent “an unacceptable barrier to access to justice” and that “more convincing justification is needed for the Government’s policy of reducing a large proportion of claims.”

Speaking after the latest Justice Committee meeting, chairman Bob Neill MP added: “Access to justice, including the right of access to the courts, is a cornerstone of the rule of law but these reforms risk putting that right in doubt.

“The small claims limit for personal injury should not be increased unless Ministers can explain how it will make sure that access to justice is not affected.”

Mr Neill added that the committee remained unconvinced that a planned electronic platform, intended to help people make claims in the small claims court, would be sufficient or effective. It has recommended that the limit for small RTA claims be no higher than £1,500, which would be in line with inflation.

This is good news and a positive step – it shows that the Government is not being totally railroaded by the insurance industry and that some people are defending people’s rights to access justice.

But there is still a long way to go.

Browell Smith & Co has a long-standing reputation for securing justice for victims of personal injury. You can read more about our range of personal injury services here.

Contact our expert team today to arrange an appointment in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively by calling 0800 107 3000, to discuss your particular requirements.

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