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'Whiplash' reforms will restrict access to justice, warns Law Society

6 January 2017

Plans to curtail the ability of people to recover compensation for injuries suffered through no fault of their own have been criticised by the Law Society.

Responding to the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) formal consultation on reforming the soft tissue injury (whiplash) claims process, Law Society president Robert Bourns said: "The Law Society wholly opposes any attempt to remove the right to compensation for injuries caused by the negligence of others as this is a fundamental legal right.

"Ordinary people who have suffered minor soft tissue injury, including injuries sustained in non-motor accidents, need expert legal help to navigate the court system and understand medical evidence. People who have been injured rely on solicitors to help them secure compensation they are entitled to."

Plans to up the small claims limit for personal injury to £5000 would prevent claimants from recovering legal costs, which means that many would not be able to obtain legal representation for claims forcing people to fight through the courts without legal help.

Insurance companies can afford legal representation, so there would be no equality of arms if the person who has been harmed has to deal with a legal procedure alone. This can result in a David and Goliath situation, undermining the ability of ordinary people to receive full and proper compensation from those that have injured them.

Robert Bourns added: "The government's belief that raising the small claims limit for personal injury claims to £5000 and abandoning general damages for 'minor' whiplash injuries will help stop fraudulent claims is wholly misguided. There is a real danger to justice if government stops those who have legitimate claims from obtaining the compensation they are entitled to and which helps them get back on their feet.

"We never condone fraudulent claims and are keen to work with the government and the insurance industry to eradicate them. However, the vast majority of claims are legitimate and therefore the negative impact on ordinary people seeking to bring a legitimate claim would be wholly disproportionate.

"Stopping people making legitimate claims is simply not the answer. If a claim lacks merit it should be defended and compensation should not be paid."

Notes to editors

The Law Society of England and Wales is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.

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Law Society press office: 020 7320 5764