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OxfordWednesday 06 June 2018

Oxford Accident Solicitors back influential MPs in their opposition to government’s small claims plans.

A group of senior MPs is asking the government to abandon plans to increase the small claims court limit to £5,000 amid concerns about leaving claimants unrepresented.

“If enacted, the government’s proposals would have a negative effect on ordinary people who suffer road traffic accidents through no fault of their own,” says Robert Millbourn of Oxford Accident Solicitors. “At the moment the small claims limit is a reasonable £1,000 but a jump to £5,000 would lead to many people with minor injuries being left without professional representation.”

In its report on proposed reforms to the personal injury sector, the Justice Select Committee urges ministers to hold back on further change until the effects of reforms in the past five years have been evaluated.

The committee was ‘troubled’ by an absence of reliable data on insurance fraud and said senior judges had ‘reasonable concerns’ about increasing the limit to such an extent that claimants are no longer represented. Instead, the committee recommended an increase in line with inflation to around £1,500.

The Ministry of Justice is pushing through the Civil Liability Bill in the House of Lords to fix damages for whiplash and, through secondary legislation, increase the small claims limit for road traffic accident claims to £5,000.

Bob Neill, chair of the cross-party committee, said: “The Ministry of Justice has made some welcome moves to develop the electronic platform to compensate for claimants’ anticipated lack of legal representation. However, we remain to be convinced that this will be effective. This is a vitally important point of principle on which the government should reflect. The small claims limit for personal injury should not be increased unless ministers can explain how it will make sure that access to justice is not affected.”

The committee concludes that the government's estimate of savings that will be passed from insurers to consumers 'may be over-optimistic', given the lack of robust evidence and the unenforceable nature of promises to reduce premiums.

MPs said they received 'compelling evidence' of the obstacles that would be faced by self-represented claimants navigating the current claims process. The government's 'wait and see' approach to judges' concerns was not considered adequate.

The report adds: 'We remain to be convinced that the electronic platform will be capable of overcoming the underlying inequality of arms between professionally represented insurers and self-represented claimants, particularly with regard to disputes on liability and quantum. Similarly, we conclude that the government has not done enough to explain how claimants of limited means with legitimate claims are expected to finance court fees and expert reports.'

“What Oxford Accident Solicitors would hate to see is a situation where people decide not to pursue small claims because they are worried about the legal costs,” concludes Robert Millbourn, “and that is exactly what the government’s proposals will lead to, unintentionally or not.”

If you are the victim of a road accident that is not your fault, don’t hesitate to contact Oxford Accident Solicitors for a FREE, no obligation assessment of your right to accident compensation. 

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