The most vulnerable people in society will be hit the hardest by the Government’s “scandalous” proposed reforms to personal injury claims, according to Hodge Jones & Allen.
The London law firm has said that the young, elderly, mentally incapacitated, those with special physical or educational needs, and those for whom English is not their first language, will all be disproportionately affected by the Government’s plans to raise the small claims limit drastically reduce damages for PI cases.
Hodge Jones & Allen has said that disadvantaged groups will be the least able to bring their own claims without legal assistance, which will be the result of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) plans to raise the small claims limit for personal injury cases to £5,000.
In its response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the planned reforms, Hodge Jones & Allen says that the unrepresented claimant suing over a road traffic accident will be required to carry out a number of tasks usually reserved for PI lawyers. These include applying the laws of liability and causation to their case; instructing a medical expert and paying for their report; ensuring witnesses attend court and cross-examining them.
“From our experience, insurers will always deny where possible and make low initial offers,” said the firm in its response.
“As we know, their first duty is to their shareholders. These proposals will place individuals in an even more vulnerable position as they face up to organised legal teams alone.”
“This will be a Herculean task for any individual – and all but impossible for vulnerable people, as well as those without computer access – and will simply lead many innocent victims of another’s negligence to abandon hope of receiving compensation for their injuries and the cost of getting better.”
The firm said that this will put more pressure on the NHS as well as employers, because injuries could well last longer than they would otherwise have done.
Patrick Allen, the senior partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “These proposals are scandalous – taking money from innocent accident victims and giving it to insurance companies and motorists, even though they actually affect all personal injury claims, not just road traffic related ones.
“The government admits that insurers will receive a £200 million windfall on top of any supposed reductions in motor insurance premiums. But history shows us that insurers will not pass on any savings – since the last set of reforms in 2013, premiums have gone up and so have the profits and dividends of all the major insurers.”
He added that the proposals were based on alleged fraud and exaggeration and that the Government had no evidence to back up their proposals, with even the Association of British Insurers now accepting that fraud levels are as low as 0.1% of all claims.
“The system is there to keep people safe, compensate them for their losses when they are injured due to someone else’s negligence, and bring about improvements which will keep the public safer still,” said Allen.
“Reducing claims will lead to a drop in standards and more accidents.”