The Tory Government is set to deny citizens access to justice but it’s kerching for the insurance industry. So much for the first rule of government is to protect its citizens. That said the Tories have always professed to be the party of business. And this legal shake-up certainly proves it, if their hostile environment left you in any doubt. So, take heed, the government is set to introduce an increase to the limit in the Small Claims Court. That means unless your claim for personal injury is £2,000 or £5,000 for motor claims, your access to justice will be denied. And it is going hurt the citizen but enrich the insurance industry.
Newspapers seem rather sparse on the information that about 95% of road traffic victims are set to lose their right to compensation. That is based on the 2014 figures. Of course, listeners to my shows had the heads up that former-Chancellor George Osbourne introduced the measure in 2015. And I have kept an eye on it ever since.
The government is waging a two-pronged attack on our rights to get access to justice. The first is that the small claims for injury will start at £2000/£5000 (motor claims) instead of £1,000. And victims would not be able to reclaim the cost of legal representation. The second is ending the right to cash compensation for ‘minor’ whiplash claims.
Tearing around as a youth and taking a knock is no big deal. Until you leave youth behind. And although the body recovers, it does so more slowly. In some cases, soft tissue damage can require surgical repair. With or without surgery, it can be a long painful healing process. So why should victims of soft tissue damage be denied access to justice and compensation?
The public is misled by insurance PR that insurers are inundated with false whiplash claims and it was costing the industry millions. Insurance companies have gone to great length to convince us that whiplash claims are false. Adverts have included a victim in a neck collar with a Pinocchio nose.
However, Judge Kevin Cross, who oversees the personal injury list in the High Court, says its ‘entirely untrue’ that inflated damages awards have caused increases in premiums.’
The government’s trade-off for denying victims the right to justice was a promise of reduced insurance premiums of £50 a year. Unsurprisingly that figure is now as little as £16 per year and then only if insurers pass on the full benefit. My renewal has increased by £450 although I have not made a claim in years.
But the roads are not just used by cars. Cyclists’ are a growing number and they are vulnerable. Cyclist’s injuries although they may be substantial, are estimated to be less than £5,000 in 70% of claims. The proposed changes leave this vulnerable group without protection and access to justice.
Personal Injury Justice
But accidents victims are not just road users. Injury occurs at work, in public places or through the fault of occupiers. Many of those claims, perhaps 85% would be in Small Claims Courts. So, without legal aid or being able to afford a lawyer, the victim is pitted against an insurance company lawyer. And a successful claim means that the victim is responsible for the insurance company’s legal fees. That’s likely to take a sizable chunk of the compensation cheque.
The rule of law depends upon access to justice and justice being seen to be done. So, it’s clear that the government’s intended reforms undermine the rule of law. And to remove a citizen’s right to justice without strong evidence of the fraud alleged by insurers is wrong. And certainly, not worth £16 per year in reduced premiums. I agree with Lord Sharkey who is quoted as saying ‘I am not convinced by the government’s touching faith in the insurance industry’.
The clear losers will be the victims of personal injury, the vast majority of who make genuine claims. I know many who never make a claim and live with the pain, the task of litigation seems so daunting. Now the government is setting out to deny access to justice for pain and suffering.
The Tories are not kidding when they say they are the party of business. Problem is it is at the expense of the rest of the population. So, while the insurance companies have a lobby group, there is no such organisation speaking up for citizens. Now is a good time to write to your MP.
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