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Changing landscape of personal injury claims harming access to justice

11th May 2016

Access to justice could be hampered if the government presses ahead with changes to personal injury claims, the chief executive of the Law Society has argued.

Speaking at the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ (APIL) annual conference, Catherine Dixon told delegates that the government has failed to substantiate its controversial proposals.

“The current environment for making personal injury claims is becoming more hostile,” said Dixon. “The pace of change in the personal injury litigation landscape is fast and unrelenting and changes seem to lack substantial evidence in support.”

In his 2015 Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne proposed a rise in the small claims limit and the removal of damages for “minor” whiplash injuries. The government aims to crack down on the fraud and claims culture, which costs the motor industry £2bn a year, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Dixon’s comments came the day after the incoming APIL present, Neil Sugarman, denounced the government’s plans as “utterly groundless”; ABI figures from 2014 showed that just 0.25 per cent of motor claims are fraudulent, and APIL believes only a fraction of those involved whiplash injuries.

Dixon said the government was taking the wrong approach, as under the new proposals, claimants would no longer receive any cash settlement for pain and suffering caused for minor soft tissue injuries.

“We are gravely concerned about how minor soft tissue injuries will be defined and it is simply wrong, in our view,” argued Dixon, “that people who suffer what could be injuries which impact on their lives through no fault of their own, are unable to recover compensation”.

“Claims for soft tissue injuries are not considered unnecessary by those who are harmed through no fault of their own. There is a danger to justice if government fails to differentiate between fraudulent, “unnecessary”, and legitimate claims,” she continued. “If a claim lacks merit it should be defended. Insurers should not pay out on claims which are either fraudulent or indeed on claims which lack legal merit.”