The Law Society has hit back at controversial plans to increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims to £5,000 and stop compensation payments for ‘minor’ soft tissue injuries.
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne said he would remove legal costs by transferring personal injury claims of up to £5,000 to the small claims court.
He will also end the right to cash compensation for ‘minor’ whiplash claims.
Law Society President Jonathan Smithers said he was ‘gravely concerned’ that the proposals could stop compensation payments for road traffic ‘minor’ soft tissue injuries.
“The proposals will completely undermine the right of ordinary citizens to receive full and proper compensation from those that have injured them through negligence,” he said.
“These proposals will stop people obtaining legal advice for all personal injury claims below £5,000 and stop people claiming for often debilitating injuries arising from road traffic accidents if these injuries are considered minor.”
Mr Smithers said this is a fivefold increase in the present level of cases currently within the small claims procedure, benefiting those who have negligently harmed people and will result in more people trying to negotiate a complex court system without any legal advice.
“People recovering from their injuries will have to bring claims as litigants in person (without any legal advice) and this can be very unfair because those defending the claims can often afford to pay for legal advice,” he added.
“This therefore undermines ordinary people’s ability to access justice. Especially if defendants simply deny liability forcing people to fight through the courts without legal help.
“Personal injury claims, even lower value claims, can include serious injuries arising from the fault of an employer or other road traffic accidents where legal rights can be very complex and the injuries caused debilitating. A new limit of £5000 will mean personal injuries including facial scarring would be considered as ‘small claims’. This is totally unacceptable.
“These proposals are not, as stated, about stopping fraudulent claims. Fraudulent claims are clearly repellent but they should be dealt with by targeting the fraudsters and not the vast majority of honest claimants who have been injured and bring genuine claims.”
The Law Society said it would await the details of the Government’s proposals and respond to the consultation robustly.