Plans to Increase Small Claims Limit for Personal Injury Cases
- AuthorSarah Merrikin
The Government’s proposal to increase the small claims limit for personal injury cases from £1,000 to £5,000 could leave many accident victims without access to justice.
Currently, a successful claimant can recover their legal costs provided that the compensation for their injuries is more than £1,000. If the limit is increased, claimants will only be able to claim back legal costs if they recover more than £5,000 for their injuries.
Typically, injuries have to cause more than 2 years’ pain and suffering for the claim to exceed £5,000. A fractured finger is usually worth no more than £4,000 for example, while a back, shoulder or neck injury causing symptoms for 1-2 years is likely to be worth £2,000 to £6,500.
But very often, victims suffer other financial losses. A secretary, builder or surgeon with a fractured finger or back injury could lose thousands in pay for time off work.
The fear is that genuine accident victims will no longer be able to afford legal representation to bring a claim. The proposal has received criticism across the board. Law Society president Robert Bourns said:
"These proposals will completely undermine the right of ordinary people to receive full and proper compensation from those that have injured them - often seriously - through negligence. This five-fold increase will stop people getting the legal advice they need in order to bring claims for the compensation they are entitled to in law.
"People may be tempted to try to bring claims themselves without expert advice. This will clog up the court system, creating a David and Goliath situation where people recovering from their injuries act as litigants in person without legal advice - those defending claims can often afford to pay for legal advice. This undermines ordinary people's ability to access justice - especially if defendants refuse to accept liability, forcing people to fight through the courts without legal help.
"Spinning this proposal as an attack on the 'compensation culture' and claiming it will reduce premiums is misleading. If you are injured through no fault of your own you should be allowed to claim for that.'