Advice line: dealing with road traffic accident claims

Your right to have legal representation could be at risk if government plans on dealing with road traffic accident claims go through, says Tom Jones.

If you’ve been injured in an accident on the road, the party that injured you currently pays your lawyers’ fees. In last November’s autumn statement, the chancellor said he wants road traffic accident victims with cases up to £5,000 in value (which would include cases of, say, permanent scarring) forced through the same small claims court, where you don’t get your lawyer’s fees paid. 
More than 80 per cent of people involved in a road traffic accident in England and Wales will have to make a choice; do they deal with the insurers for those who injured them direct – either accepting any settlement offered or fighting the insurers on their own, in their own time – or do they pay for a lawyer out of compensation meant to be for their losses, expenses and injuries? 
The chancellor has introduced this idea because he claims there is a ‘fraud and claims culture in motor insurance’ and raising the small claims limit will save the insurance industry £1 billion. 
However the insurers have produced no independent evidence of a crisis. When they recently reported their 2015 results none of them mentioned fraud despite stock market rules saying they have to report any ‘material risk’ to shareholders. 
It’s also unclear how the £1 billion has been calculated and ministers have admitted in parliament that they won’t insist any savings are passed on to consumers, simply that they ‘expect’ the insurers to do so. It’s a big expectation given the motor insurance industry has saved £7 billion in the last four years, and yet premiums have consistently gone up.
We fear the proposed changes are the thin edge of the wedge. The government could use this as a stepping stone to attack the right of workers to seek legal support after a workplace accident.
  • Tom Jones is head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, which provides free legal help for CSP members on compensation claims for any injury sustained on the roads, a service at risk if the changes are enacted.  
More information here Small Claims, Big Impact campaign.   
Tom Jones is head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors

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