Proposed Reforms in Relation to Changes to the Small Claims Court Limit in Personal Injury Claims
In 2017 the government announced proposed reforms regarding changes to the small claims court limit in personal injury claims from £1000 to £5000 in relation to road traffic accident claims and £2000 in other personal injury claims. The reforms were to be put into place in April 2019. The Ministry of Justice then announced in May 2018 that the reforms had been delayed to ensure that concerns around access to justice were properly addressed; the latest news is that the reforms are set to take effect from April 2020.
How will the proposed reforms impact claimants?
I remain concerned whether or not all of the access to justice issues have been addressed. The proposed reforms mean that claimants who suffer injuries deemed to be worth less than £5000 in a road traffic accident and less than £2000 for other personal injury claims will not be able to recover legal costs. The injured claimant has to prove negligence on the part of the defendant and causation with respect to their injuries in order to be successful in their claim and in all types of personal injury claims there can be complexities in respect of both of these hurdles. A claimant, whose claim which falls under the new limits proposed, will find themselves faced with a professionally represented defendant insurer without the support of legal advice and assistance. Without any expert advice or assistance, this may result in the chances of success being diminished.
Why has there been a delay?
Part of the reason for the delay was to allow the courts service to develop an online claims system for use by a claimant but, even with the reforms, only now two months away, there is little information available as to how exactly the system will work and how the unrepresented claimant will be expected to access it.
I have been operating the Rapid Claims portal system for road traffic accident claims since 2010, and since 2013 for employers and public liability claims. Whilst the system is working well, it still requires legal skill and knowledge.
I am concerned that many personal injury victims will be deprived of access to justice under the reforms and these concerns are not helped by the lack of information available in relation to the precise rules.
The best advice that can be given at this stage to any person who has been injured and is thinking about pursuing a claim is to do so as soon as possible and certainly before April 2020.
If you are considering pursuing a personal injury claim, contact Lanyon Bowdler’s specialist personal injury team who will be happy to assist you.