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You can help the campaign to save access to justice!

How would this feel - imagine you suffered a life changing injury, through no fault of your own. For instance, another driver goes straight through a red light at high speed, hitting you as you cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. Your injuries are such that you lose your livelihood as you can never work again, and you are reliant on others to help with your day to day care. You can no longer drive a car, and lose your independence. You enter a seemingly never ending cycle of operations, hospital visits, physiotherapy and maybe counselling.

You want to claim compensation, to replace your lost income and to pay for all the help that you need. Someone was negligent and caused this huge change in your life, and you feel that you are doing nothing wrong in asking that driver's insurers to pay you a fair figure. Surely, it's only right that you should be able to bring that claim, and yet not feel that you are doing anything wrong. You didn't ask to be in this position, so it won't cost you anything to claim.........or will it?

It certainly shouldn't. At present, it doesn't. However, the Government is planning to change this and to create a situation where someone making a claim like this would actually face expense if they wanted to bring a claim. It would not matter that this person has done nothing wrong and did not ask to have to make this claim (how else can they rebuild their life?), and has a clear entitlement to be compensated. Reforms are being proposed where the person described above would, on winning their claim, become respoonsible for some of their own legal costs. The insurers of those responsible for causing those injuries and losses would no longer have to foot all of that bill. They, and the Government, think that it would be a good thing for the person claiming to have to pay some of their own costs, as it will perhaps focus their mind on whether the claim is really merited.

What will actually happen is that claimants with perfectly justifiable and valid claims will be put off even going through the process. There will be uncertainty created, and the financial risk imposed on ordinary members of the public will mean that people will be afraid to pursue their rights. That is a key point - it is a right to be able to make a claim. We should not be creating unnecessary obstacles to basic rights being enforced.

The proposed reforms are explained in detail on www.ajag.co.uk, the site of the Access to Justice Action Group (AJAG). This is worth looking at to get an understanding of the reforms and what they will mean in the real world. It also gives detail as to why the proposed reforms are wrong, and go too far. The compensation system needs a bit of updating and modernising, but not the backwards steps that the government suggest.

If you also feel that the changes are wrong, you can help. The AJAG site has a useful link through which you can enter your personal details and the site will automatically create an e-mail that will be sent to your own MP, in your name, to confirm that you back the campaign. It is vital that as many MPs as possible hear about the issues, and the reasons for opposition to it. They are the ones best placed to shape the proposed new laws and to prevent steps being taken now which will harm access to justice for years to come for a huge number of deserving people. Please read the information on the site, and if you agree with the campaign, please do use the site to contact your MP.

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