One of the country’s most experienced claimant personal injury lawyers, Patrick Allen, has invited Lord Chancellor Liz Truss to meet clients who have brought the kind of claims that will be stifled under the Ministry of Justice’s proposed small claims reforms.
Allen, the senior partner of London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen and former president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, has written to Truss to outline his alarm –in particular at the prospect of the small claims limit for PI claims rising from £1,000 to £5,000.
Back in 1991 he played an integral role in persuading one of her predecessors not to make a similar move and said the arguments “still hold good”.
In a letter written to Truss he said: “It should never be forgotten that we are talking about ordinary people who have been injured and suffered loss due to the negligence of another. The law has not changed to make it easier to claim; rather people now have a greater awareness that the law allows them to make good the loss they have suffered. This is a fundamental principle of our legal system.
“If the law itself remains sound, and you are making no proposal to change it, then there is no rational argument to make it harder for people to exercise their rights under it. The sums may seem small but to individuals they can be very significant – it could be a loss that tips them over the edge from ‘just about managing’ to ‘not managing’.”
Successful claimants do not recover their legal costs in the small claims court, and Allen said that as a result, “many will not be able to face bringing perfectly valid claims themselves, while those that do will be faced with experienced legal representation on the other side. Equality of arms will be a distant memory”.
He added: “A case may be low value but that does not make it simple. How many of your constituents would be able to navigate health and safety regulations, for example, to determine liability? Or find witnesses of fact and bring them to court? Or brief medical or expert witnesses and get them to court too? Or pay for medical and other reports? Or value damages and calculate interest?”
“I invite you to visit our offices in Euston to discuss these issues with those of us on the front line and meet first-hand clients who are bringing claims of the type under review, to understand their stories and what their cases mean to them.”