The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) has warned against the Government’s proposal to raise the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000.
MASS is concerned that any increase would go far beyond tackling fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claims, leading to victims with some significant and deeply unpleasant injuries struggling to find legal representation.
In the small claims track (SCT), costs that can be recovered from the other side are limited and minimal costs can be claimed for legal representation.
If the small claims limit is increased it will mean that claimants will struggle to find legal support for their case, as they will not be able to claim back the cost of professional legal representation.
This would put many genuine accident victims in the invidious position of having to face the lawyers from the defendants’ insurers alone.
MASS welcomes the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the whiplash claims process as an opportunity for Parliament to examine the evidence on the Government’s proposals on the whiplash claims process.
It believe that this is an important part of the scrutiny process and should be viewed as a valuable contribution to the policy-making process by the Government.
Craig Budsworth, MASS Chair, said: “The Transport Select Committee’s inquiry provides the opportunity for Parliament to offer its independent view on the complicated issue of whiplash claims.
"We hope that the Government will give Parliament the time to offer its opinion before it announces how it’s going to proceed.
“We have asked the Committee to pay particular attention to the ill-thought through proposal to increase the small claims limit which we believe will be deeply damaging.
“A £5,000 limit would probably mean that people with injuries ranging from a collapsed lung to minor brain damage will find themselves without access to independent legal advice and fighting their corner alone, unless they can afford legal assistance from their own pocket.
"Many people will find this complicated process so daunting that they will choose not to bring a claim at all.
“We know that the Government wants to cut costs and reduce fraudulent claims, but surely they are not proposing that real accident victims with some nasty injuries are prevented from seeking legitimate recompense and holding dangerous drivers to account. Only the insurance industry will benefit from this proposal by either saving on payments they should be making or having poorly prepared victims facing them.”
Examples of compensation for types of injury that could be valued at less than £5,000 include:
- Minor brain or head injury - £1,575 to £9,100
- Collapsed lung with full recovery - £1,575 to £3,825
- Fractured nose with surgery - £2,800 to £3,650
- Less severe PTSD - £2,800 to £5,875
- Minor eye Injuries - £2,800 to £6,250
- Loss of part of finger - £2,800 to £5,600
- Loss of two front teeth - £3,100 to £5,430
- Slight hearing loss or tinnitus - Up to £5,000
- Significant hip/pelvis injury - Up to £5,500
Source: 11th Edition Judicial College Guidelines