17 Jul Access to Justice: This Time It’s Personal (Injury)
Since the Ministry of Justice announced its plans to introduce so-called “whiplash reforms”, here at Smooth Law we’ve been campaigning to put a stop to the government plans. The reforms are a considerable threat to Access to Justice for the public, and that’s why for this month’s blog we visit some of the reasons these reforms must be fought, and how you can help.
Why is this so important?
As a result of lobbying by the insurance industry, the Government is planning to restrict the right for members of the public to claim for injuries that were not their fault. As the Law Society puts it: if the reforms go through, a fractured rib, facial scarring or losing part of a finger could be treated as no more severe than a faulty washing machine.
Sounds unjust, doesn’t it? The consequences of these reforms are being pushed under the rug by some, but the reality is a catastrophe in terms of access to justice. That’s why, at Smooth Law, we believe the decision should be reversed.
The rewards for these reforms have been publicised widely – £40 off the average motorist’s yearly insurance premium, and supposedly an end to nuisance calls from ‘claims management companies’. These promises do indeed sound positive, but they conveniently act to mask a far greater issue: if you are injured in an accident, you may no longer be able to get fair compensation for your injuries. Not to mention these small benefits are in fact unlikely to come to fruition at all – insurers have rarely been known to pass on their cost savings to consumers. Instead, what we will most likely see is insurance companies further boosting their profits; all at the expense of the average, law-abiding motorists who are unfortunate enough to end up injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.
Here’s an alarming truth:
Despite some arms of the media suggesting otherwise, it’s not just whiplash claims that are under threat from the reforms. The rule change would threaten any personal injury claim worth up to £5000, meaning many who have suffered painful and debilitating injuries could no longer be fairly compensated.
What are the proposed reforms?
Currently, the upper limit for a case to go through the small claims court is £1000. When a case goes through the small claims court, the cost of legal fees cannot be reclaimed from the other side’s insurer, so people rarely seek representation for cases such as these. The Government proposes to raise this limit to £5000, which will encompass many more serious claims, and – crucially – remove the ability for many people to access legal representation unless they are able to pay for it out of their own pocket.
What does this mean for the average person?
Without legal representation for the public, what we will see in the courts is a David and Goliath situation. Insurers can of course afford to have lawyers help them minimise the amount they are required to pay out, but most members of the public don’t have the spare money to pay for legal representation. This creates an unfair slant and will undoubtedly mean many people are scared away from bringing their case to court at all.
How can we stop this?
There are three ways you can help us campaign to stop these reforms:
- Sign the petition – and remember to share: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173099
- Contact your local MP – The Law Society has an online system that makes it easy to do this: https://lawsociety.e-activist.com/page/4246/action/1
- Spread the word – join us on Twitter (@SmoothLawLtd) or find us on Facebook, retweet and share our posts – help us defend Access to Justice!