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Thousands to be denied access to justice in small claims shake-up

Author: Gillian Ward

The advice from personal injury groups would always be that if you have suffered an injury in an accident as a result of someone else’s negligence then you should seek independent legal advice to ensure that you are properly compensated.

It may also be possible for your solicitor to arrange recommended rehabilitation on your behalf to help you recover from the injuries sustained in an accident.

Legal representation is vital to ensure that you are fully compensated and rehabilitated.

If, however, it was considered that your injuries were relatively minor and would not attract an award of more than £1,000, what is known as the “small claims limit”, then you would be best advised to deal with the case yourself, as you would not be entitled to payment of your legal costs.

The government announced in February 2017 that it planned to raise this “small claims limit” to £5,000 for whiplash-related road traffic injuries and £2,000 for other types of personal injury claims. If these plans were implemented, it would mean that “approximately 80-90% of road traffic accident victims” would not be entitled to payment of their legal costs and would find themselves without legal representation. They would be forced to deal with the claim themselves and have to deal directly with insurance companies. It was thought that this could be introduced as soon as October 2018.

Personal injury lobby groups including MASS and APIL believe that this approach is “unfair and unjust”. Accident victims should be entitled to access to justice and independent legal advice, but the proposed changes would deny many thousands of injured victims this basic legal right.

We, too, have been actively working to fight the implementation of this legislation.

On 20 April 2017, during the run up to the General Election on 8 June 2017, the proposed legislation “Prisons & Courts Bill” was scrapped, which will postpone the implementation of this legislation – good news for accident victims.

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