People who have suffered injuries in road traffic accidents could be denied access to justice under plans outlined in the last few days by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in its Prisons and Courts Bill.
The government confirmed it is ploughing ahead with plans to increase the “small claims limit” for all road traffic injuries to £5,000. With claimants unable to recover their legal fees in these cases, there is now a real risk that people with deserving cases will have to do without legal representation and deal with well-resourced insurance companies on their own.
In addition, the government is to introduce a fixed tarriff which will substantially reduce the levels of compensation for injuries suffered.
The proposals have been announced much earlier than had been planned following a public consultation that ended last month.
Concern has been expressed repeatedly by Liverpool Law Society in meetings and in submissions to government officials – and in a recent meeting with Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman in her capacity as Chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee.
However, part of the campaigning by the legal profession on Merseyside is now reflected in the bill before Parliament. For example, the practice of insurers offering compensation for whiplash ahead of any medical assessment is to be made unlawful and will make a real contribution to minimising fraud. In addition, the MoJ has agreed that the small claims limit for non-road traffic cases will be held at a much lower £2,000.
Reacting to the news, Liverpool Law Society President, John Ballam said, “the speed at which the government has introduced these reforms – originally due in April – confirms our view that it is pursuing these matters from a position of strength. Our concern has always been that they could impact on the ability of the public to obtain representation and justice at reasonable cost. However, there is a longstanding tradition of innovation amongst the lawyers of Merseyside. Despite what is a difficult situation for the public, I have every confidence that our members will take steps to ensure that some protection can be offered to the victims of road accident related injury”.