The Government has just completed its enquiry into the proposed changes to increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims and to effectively ‘outlaw’ whiplash claims with a response set for around April of this year.
At first glance, many will rejoice at the idea that the ambulance chasing Claims Companies and incessant nuisance calls will become a thing of the past, and the loss of 35,000 jobs amongst the legal community pursuing claims won’t lead to too many tears in the general population, but aren’t the proposals a case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’?
It is correct to say that the accident claim ‘industry’ has been abused since Legal Aid was abolished and the growth of some of the less scrupulous Claims Management Companies, which when introduced into the legal market effectively edged out the Practitioner Solicitors as the ‘trade’ in accident claim referrals became an invitation for less than honest ‘claims farmers’ to sell details of accident victims to the highest bidder, and at the same time increased the level of fraudulent claims to unprecedented levels.
But whilst the idea of making a claim became synonymous with benefit fraud, what about the genuinely injured claimants who became too embarrassed to pursue claims for compensation for injuries and losses caused through no fault of their own.
The law of tort for negligence has become established over hundreds of years and established the right of an individual to recover compensation for being ‘wronged’ by the negligent act or omission of another person, or body corporate. The proposed changes to the system, whilst arguably only removing the bottom tier of injury claims is still an assault on the long established principle that compensation ought to be paid by an offender for causing harm negligently or recklessly.
It may be a case of wait and see, but I wouldn’t bank on the savings made by the fact cat insurance companies being passed on to consumers…