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Small claim, big difference

You may have seen in the news recently, the proposals to reform how whiplash claims are dealt with, which are being positively heralded by insurers, as they’ll be likely to knock £40 off the average car insurance bill.  Amongst these reforms is a suggestion that the small claims limit should be raised from its current £1,000 to £5,000 which, it is hoped, will curb the amount of whiplash and soft tissue injury claims being made.  The end goal is that those seeking to make fraudulent claims will be deterred from doing so. 

It is likely that a £4,000 increase will indeed curb the amount of whiplash claims being made, as there is no ‘no win, no fee’ arrangement able to be made for those claims made in the small claims court.  In other words, those wishing to have legal representation in the small claims court will need to pay for the cost of that representation, regardless of the outcome. 

So far, so good riddance, you may be thinking.  After all, I’m a cyclist, so why would reforming how whiplash is being dealt with affect me…I cycle!  Unfortunately however, these reforms affect everyone, cyclist or not.  A raise to the small claims limit would undoubtedly impact many of those individuals seeking to make whiplash and related claims.  What isn’t as loudly stated in the news coverage, however, is the fact that a raise to the limit is unilateral, and affects those wishing to make a claim for any sort of injury, not just whiplash.  A couple of weeks ago, British Cycling issued a statement against this move, echoing what a lot of my colleagues and I have been saying in response to the proposals; that this puts an injured person’s access to justice at risk. 

Around 70% of cycling claims are worth less than £5,000, meaning that if these proposals come to pass, many injured cyclists could be left without the means to have adequate legal representation when seeking compensation for an incident that wasn’t their fault.  This could be disastrous, and may even act as a bar to those wishing to either take up cycling or continue riding their bikes in the future.  After all, if cyclists are at risk of injury on their journey, but face limited opportunity for recourse then surely it will serve to put people off making those journeys. 

British Cycling is, quite rightly, responding to the Ministry of Justice, who are consulting on these reforms until 6th January.  You can read more about these reforms and how they may affect you, here; https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/reforming-soft-tissue-injury-claims/

Given that the headline-grabbing £40 car insurance saving is likely to be wiped out by the increase in Insurance Premium Tax in any event, considered responses that take a reasonable approach to the current situation, such as British Cycling’s response, are going to be key to facilitating continued access to justice.  I hope to see the end result of this process, influenced by feedback from numerous sources, have a positive impact as my colleagues and I continue to work hard to get our clients the compensation they deserve. 

 

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