Cyclists and other vulnerable road users have had a near miss when it comes to controversial new legislation being pushed through parliament.
Radical reforms to the personal injury sector will deprive motorists and their passengers from being able to recover the cost of essential legal advice for injuries worth £5,000 and under when a negligent driver crashes into their car.
Until recently the government reforms also prevented most pedestrians and cyclists injured on the road from accessing justice.
In a concession announced by the lord chancellor during the second reading of the Civil Liability Bill the government took on board at least some of the concerns aired by the Law Society of England and Wales and other bodies.
Although Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said the legislation will still mean road users injured through no fault of their own will struggle to get justice.
“While we are glad that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has listened to some of our concerns and decided to remove vulnerable road users from the measures in the bill, we simply cannot accept that a £5,000 small claims limit for motoring claims is reasonable,” she said.
“The Law Society has consistently warned the proposed changes to the rules for personal injury claims will create the paradox that someone hurt in a road traffic accident will be entitled to less compensation under the new proposed tariff system than if they had sustained the injury another way.
“The government is treating injuries that would be regarded as grievous bodily harm in the criminal courts as small claims in the civil courts. A new limit of £5,000 will mean people will be forced to bring claims themselves for injuries including facial scarring, fractured ribs, a bruised chest and whiplash to the neck, without access to expert legal advice.”
The bill faced further criticism last night in the House of Commons, with MPs raising concerns that the number of claims for whiplash injuries has been exaggerated and that any savings for insurers would not be passed on to consumers.
Christina Blacklaws concluded: “The government has tried to portray the reforms as a bid to reduce the cost of motor insurance by tackling questionable whiplash claims. This is a fallacy. Proven fraudulent whiplash claims amount to only 0.25% of all claims*.
“Without representation claimants will end up either not bringing claims or will have no choice but to go it alone. Going it alone with a road traffic accident claim up to the value £5,000 is simply not realistic and will prejudice thousands of people who have suffered injury through no fault of their own.
“A justice select committee report on the proposed reforms echoed our concerns and we will continue to oppose these reforms.”
Notes to editors
The Law Society has set out an illustration of some of the issues a claimant might face when bringing a claim without proper legal representation (see infographic below).
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