George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that the limit for small claims relating to personal injury will rise to £5,000 and claims for minor whiplash injuries will be scrapped altogether.
Law firms from across the UK have reacted angrily to the news, and specialists at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors in Shropshire said the move would undermine the rights of victims - most of whom had no idea as to the valuation of their case and who were up against a large corporate entity which had a commercial interest to pay as little as a victim would accept.
Neil Lorimer, head of the personal injury team at Lanyon Bowdler in Shrewsbury, is one of the UK’s most respected legal specialists in cases involving major brain injuries.
He said: “The Chancellor has done this to hit the ‘crash for cash’ claims and disreputable firms who try to deal with complex cases without the necessary expertise, but in reality he is going to penalise a lot of innocent victims who just want to see justice being done.
“The majority of personal injury claims end up settling for less than £5,000, so under these reforms a huge amount of people will lose the right to legal representation and will have to go through the small claims court themselves.
“A minor head injury could be quickly settled by the insurer for under £5,000, however I have had experience of these sorts of cases involving subtle brain injury which can impact on earning potential and day to day living resulting in the victim’s losses being substantially more. Without legal advice the victim would have no idea.
“It’s about striking the balance between cracking down on fraudulent injury claims without disadvantaging the genuine claimants who need experienced and specialist advice, and I’m sorry to say these proposals will cause more harm than good.”
A national petition against the plans has already attracted almost 10,000 signatures, with many calling for them to be scrapped.
Neil accused the Government of double standards as it emerged that some police forces are handing out leaflets to people involved in motor accidents which contain details of a claims management company.
He said: “It has come to my attention that when some police forces attend a road traffic accident they hand out a ‘help pack’ which includes details of how to contact a specific claims company.
“The Police Superintendent’s Association of England and Wales refer to ‘an income generation opportunity discussion which is particularly relevant in the recent times of austerity’.
“This suggests a commercial relationship. What is the income generation opportunity?
“It seems there are double standards here. On the one hand the police are encouraging people to make claims by introducing them to this company, and on the other the Chancellor is trying to reduce claims by the contents of the Autumn Statement.
“I am also concerned that with the police handing out this pack they are effectively endorsing the quality of a specific claims management company which is a middleman.
“People would be better advised to go straight to a solicitor of their choice who specialises in this sort of work.”
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