Hudgell Solicitors has warned the Government that its plans to curb the right to claim for minor injuries ignores the burden that will be passed from insurance companies to the state, and particularly the NHS.
The firm has said that proposed reforms to small claims are putting insurers’ profits before innocent people and has called on Justice Secretary Liz Truss to rethink her ideas. It says that any changes to the small claims limit and the right to seek compensation for injuries will particularly affect carers and parents of young children – for whom an injury has significant knock-on effects to others – as well as the many people who require physical fitness for their jobs.
Hudgells has said that it strongly oppose the proposals to place all claims where pain, suffering and loss of amenity is worth up to £5,000 in the small claims court – where claimants cannot recover the cost of using a lawyer, unlike in other courts – and to remove or heavily restrict the right to damages for pain and suffering, and the idea that injured people will have to pay for courses of treatment, such as physiotherapy, themselves.
Amanda Stevens, group head of legal practice at Hudgell, said: “Most of the consultation is unfairly skewed in favour of insurers. It seeks to shift the burdens you would expect to fall on them onto innocent injured people and state bodies that will pick up the tab for unmet need.
“The consultation proceeds on the assumption that soft-tissue injuries are inconsequential and do not need compensation – and even suggests injured people should pay for their own treatment – when the reality, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of people Hudgell Solicitors and other law firms have helped over the years, is very different.
“The majority of working people, aside from those in the public sector, do not enjoy the luxury of being paid when not able to work or of sick days. They are entitled either to statutory sick pay or no pay at all. So they are compelled to attend work, whether fit to do so or not, despite being in pain, and regardless of whether work – particularly manual work – will aggravate or prolong their symptoms.
“The law provides that their pain, suffering and loss of amenity should be compensated, but the government seems intent on removing this fundamental right.”
Stevens added that the plans were riding roughshod over the insurance industry’s own research that showed how up to 10% of motorists with a soft-tissue injury go on to develop more serious long-term health issues if left untreated in the early stages.
“There is an underlying implication that many ordinary people, lawyers and doctors are seeking to dishonestly make a profit from insurance claims – it’s absurd and offensive,” added Stevens.
“There have already been massive cuts to the cost of these claims as well as a fall in the number of claims in recent years, and yet insurance premiums continue to go up and up.
“What is so frustrating is that many of the reforms are expressly stated to be based on anecdotal evidence. The insurance industry itself has been unable to produce any reliable or compelling data to support its claims of widespread fraud. So the many innocent people are to lose out due to the actions of a dishonest few – this is no way to make government policy and I fervently hope Liz Truss will think again.”