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Leigh Day respond to MoJ consultation on small claims limit

Lawyers claim Government's planned personal injury reforms will benefit only insurers whilst affecting those injured through no fault of their own

11 January 2017

Law firm Leigh Day have responded to a consultation from the Government over plans to increase the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 calling the plans a gift to insurers whilst penalising most cyclists and pedestrians who are injured through no fault of their own.

The proposed changes to the compensation rules were announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to crackdown on what it called the ‘epidemic of whiplash claims’ promising that ‘millions of motorists could see their car insurance cut by about £40 a year’ as a result of the changes.

However, many organisations have pointed out that the reforms impact not just on injured motorists but on anybody injured as a result of another’s negligence, and that the main beneficiaries will be Insurers who will see their profits increase.

Amongst those likely to lose out are cyclists and pedestrians injured through no fault of their own. Andrew Bradley, head of the cycling team at law firm Leigh Day which exclusively represents British Cycling and British Triathlon members said that he did not accept the premise for advocating these reforms.

In his response, Mr Bradley states: “The oft-repeated justification for these reforms is to tackle exaggerated and fraudulent "whiplash" claims. Whilst the extent of this problem is debatable in any event, extending the proposed increase to the small claims limit to all personal injury claims goes significantly further than addressing this very specific issue, and would lead to the inclusion of employers liability, public liability and product liability claims, as well as claims on behalf of those involved in RTAs as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

“We have particular experience of representing injured cyclists through our work with British Cycling and British Triathlon, organisations with a combined membership of over 150,000.

“We bring in the region of 1,000 claims on behalf of injured cyclists each year. As a rule, cyclists do not suffer "whiplash" injuries, but over 70% of the injury claims we bring on behalf of injured cyclists resolve for under £5,000.

“The injuries sustained are varied and often multiple, and can have a significant impact of the lifestyle of a keen cyclist, even where the injuries resolve within a matter of months. For a high-performing cyclist a few weeks off the bike can impact on carefully-planned training regimes as well as often depriving them of their preferred mode of transport.

“The government is seemingly keen to increase participation in cycling as a means of transport, but depriving an injured cyclist of the right to legal support because of an attempt to crack down on alleged fraud by car drivers does not sit comfortably with that stated desire. The only realistic beneficiaries of this policy will be insurers, at the expense of an impact on the legal rights of every individual in the country.”

British Cycling also announced they had responded to the consultation asserting that approximately 70% of cyclists who are injured through no fault of their own will be unable to recover their legal costs, adding that injured cyclists will be put in a David and Goliath situation where they will face dealing with insurance companies without legal representation.

Martin Key, British Cycling’s campaigns manager, said: “The current proposals, which are aimed at saving motorists £40 per year on their insurance premiums, would punish cyclists and make it almost impossible for the majority of them to get legal representation”.

“The government needs to be doing everything that it can to encourage more people to get on bikes. All this will do is put people off. We do not accept that small claims limit needs to be changed at all. If it is, then it should be in line with inflation only and limited to road traffic claims which are brought by occupants of motor vehicles.”

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