In the Autumn Statement of 2015, there was an announcement by the then-Chancellor George Osborne that people would no longer be able to claim for whiplash injuries.
The time had come, so critics said, to put an end to such scams as ‘crash for cash’, the notion that by having a relatively simple bump on the road meant thousands of pounds in compensation for what was, in many cases, a minor soft tissue injury.
The chancellor announced raising the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000. The details were sketchy and still are, although as the year draws to a close, it is anticipated that 2017 will usher in the proposed changes.
What this change means is that the majority of people with a minor whiplash injury would not be able to claim personal injury compensation, as most awards for such an injury are under the proposed £5,000 threshold.
The proposed changes will dramatically change the way that people claim in the future, as well as how personal injury solicitors operate.
What Are The Changes?
For the vast majority of personal injury claims, the changes announced as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement would mean that clients would not have access to legal representation if their personal injury claim was worth less that the proposed £5,000 benchmark.
In other words, if your personal injury claim was less than £5,000, it would be down to the claimant to fight with the insurance company and lawyers themselves. This, of course, presents a picture of an entirely unequal fight. Insurance companies would still be able to afford to hire lawyers to fight any claims against them, whether the claims were for £1,000 or £10,000.
Claimants would also have to navigate the court process themselves. This would include obtaining and paying for medical reports. And the industry itself is worried about the proposed changes.
Many experts believe that this could lead to a high volume of people making small claims, taking up court time that is already hard pressed and the system coming under increasing strain.
When Is a Claim Worth Over £5,000?
Of course, the big question is how do claimants know if they have a claim that is worth more than the £5,000? Whiplash, although painful, is a short-term issue in many cases, with symptoms disappearing after several weeks. Medical intervention from prescribed painkillers to physiotherapy may be needed but even with all this, the claim for personal injury would still not top the £5,000 threshold.
The answer lay in the longevity, as well as the seriousness of the injury. A claimant who has suffered from medical symptoms for more than two years is pushing the boundaries of a ‘minor’ injury.
And this is the very nature of personal injury claims. Initially, an injury is seen as minor but some months and years down the line, with the injury still having an impact on a someone’s daily routine and life, the need to be compensated properly is evident.
An On-Going Debate
The debate surrounding the proposals to raise the small claims limit and stop people claiming for minor whiplash is an ongoing debate. And it seems that there could be a backlash from the public too, who see the changes as being unfair.
To stop claims for whiplash, the government must pass primary legislation in parliament but prior to this, interested parties must be cpnsulted or face a judicial review.
What Is The Potential Impact?
Many legal experts believe that people who have the right to claim personal injury compensation now will not do so, because they will self-assess their injuries as being ‘too minor’. However, some years down the line, it may be that this injury starts to cause them serious problems. The industry and the public await the results of the consultation and further details of the proposals.
If you have a small claim to make, contact Concept Law today.