Small Personal Injury and Whiplash claims – the end of the road?

A briefing paper has now been published by the Commons Library which considers the small claims track financial limit in respect of personal injury claims and proposes increasing it to £5000.  It also proposes removing the right to general damages for minor soft tissue injuries – in other words, compensation for whiplash if you are involved in a rear-end shunt.

The general thinking appears to be that it should not be necessary for a person with a personal injury claim worth less than £5000 to employ a solicitor or barrister to help them with their case.  (Currently, the limit is £1000.)  If your claim for personal injury is less than this and you choose to employ a solicitor or barrister, even if you win your case you can only claim back a really small amount (it’s currently about £70-£80 typically, but we don’t know what it would be if the limit rises) from the other side.  This does not usually cover your legal costs.

What the briefing paper seems to be saying is that the Government thinks that most minor injury cases are sufficiently straightforward for a non-legally trained person to be able to manage bringing their case themselves.

What they don’t point out is that if you do not have specialist legal knowledge, you may not know about what you can actually claim for, so you may not realise that your claim is worth more than the small-claims limit anyway.

The other side of this is that your opponent may well be a large insured or insurance company, with plenty of resources to employ claims handlers, solicitors and/or barristers to defend a claim.  Just because the value of a claim is small does not necessarily mean that it is unimportant to the person claiming, or the issues involved are really straightforward and they are unlikely to point out to you that you could claim for things you haven’t thought of.

So some people with a genuine personal injury claim might be put off even starting.

With whiplash claims, the idea seems to be that motor insurance premiums may be able to fall if insurance companies are not at risk of multiple  claims for whiplash in minor road traffic accidents.  However, there is concern from some quarters that insurers would not pass on any savings in insurance premiums anyway.

You can read the briefing paper here  small claims

It is possible for members of the general public  to approach a barrister directly, without having to go through a solicitor.  This can be an efficient and cost-saving way to obtain, for example, advice on the merits of your  claim or how to go about bringing your claim yourself is what you need, or if you need someone to represent you at specific times only. Information about how the Public Access scheme works from the client’s perspective is available here and also here.

Contact me at h.beckett@goldsmithchambers.com or contact my clerk at clerks@goldsmithchambers.com Telephone 0207 353 6802.