04 Feb Small Claims Changes – How Will They Affect Me?
The changes to the small claims limit are fast approaching. Find out here what the changes are and how they may affect you.
In November 2016, after a four-month consultation, the Government proposed plans to increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims. Nearly four years later, these changes are set to come into force this year.
In this article, you can find out what the changes are, when they are due to be brought in and how it might affect you moving forward.
What is a small claim?
A small claim is classed as;
- Any property claim that is worth less than £10,000
- Any personal injury or housing disrepair claim valued at less than £1,000
In some cases, even if the claim is within this limit, a judge may decide that a case cannot be pursued through the small claims court due to the case being overly complex.
The idea of the small claims court is that claimants will not require legal representation. This means that if you claim through the small court, you are not entitled to have your legal costs covered by the other side if you win.
How claims are calculated is often complicated, as different injuries can affect people in different ways. Previous rulings can be relied upon, along with medical evidence drafted by an expert. There are also guidelines issued by the Judicial College.
These guidelines are in relation to general damages. General damages are intended to compensate you for any pain, suffering, and loss of amenity. They also cover the impact an injury might have had on your life – including the loss of hobbies or career.
Special damages are then calculated on top of these general damages. These include:
- Loss of earnings (including future earnings)
- Medical treatment costs
- Travel costs
- Cost of care
- Cost of adapting your or home or car due to injury
What are the proposed small claims limit changes?
Currently, the small claims limit for injuries incurred through road traffic accidents is £1,000. The changes will see this limit rise to £5,000. For all other types of personal injury, it will double, to £2,000.
This means that all road traffic accident claims that are valued at less than £5,000 will have to go through the small claims court. This, therefore, will mean that those victims will be unable to reclaim the cost of representation.
When are the small claim changes coming into action?
The Government had initially worked on the basis of implementing the changes by April 2019. Last year, however, this was delayed after the requirement for extensive testing in order to ensure that the system is easy to use and the guidance is clear.
The changes, which will be introduced through the Civil Liability Bill, will now be implemented in full in April 2020.
How will the changes affect personal injury claims?
The Law Society has released figures which estimate the small claims limit increase will impact a staggering 96% of all road traffic accident claims. This will mean, if this is the case, 96% of RTA claimants after April 2020 will have to pay their own legal fees or lose a share of any compensation awarded.
This will greatly restrict the number of personal injury victims able to instruct a solicitor. In addition to this, defendants, such as insurers, will have their own legal departments who will have access to legal knowledge and experience that potential claimants will not.
This will cause a real-life “David vs. Goliath” situation for claimants, who may end up settling for less than the claim is worth, or simply not claim at all.
The reforms also affect all types of claims, not just road traffic accidents. This could be mean many employees who are injured at work may also be deprived access of justice. Potential health and safety standards could start to drop should employees be less likely to challenge their employer.
We may also see the increase of claims management companies if solicitors are unable to assist with claims. Claims management companies will often not have the legal knowledge to properly risk assess cases and will operate on claims in bulk. They may simply overlook any complex, disputed cases, leaving many without any legal assistance.
How can Smooth Law help?
If you have been injured through no fault of your own, our personal injury lawyers can help you claim compensation. With decades of experience across our team, we can provide clear, confident and compassionate guidance for every step of the claims process, giving you the best chance of securing fair compensation.
Our lawyers are members of APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) reflecting our expertise with all types of personal injury claims and we represent all of our clients on a no-win, no-fee basis, so there is no upfront charge to start a claim.