On your bike – cyclists no longer included in small claims limit
In what campaigners are claiming as a victory, cyclists will no longer be affected by controversial personal injury reforms which would have left many with a substantially reduced access to justice if injured in a road accident.
Plans to introduce an increase in the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for injuries arising from a road traffic accident have also been dropped for horse riders, pedestrians and motor cyclists all classified, along with cyclists, as vulnerable road users.
The so-called "whiplash" reforms, first proposed in November 2015, are contained within the Civil Liability Bill which recently had its second reading in the House of Commons.
Its proposals have come under fire because those claiming compensation for injuries worth less than £5,000 would not have been able to recover legal costs, even when the other party was to blame for the accident.
This would have hit cyclists, motor cyclists and pedestrians particularly hard as commonly incurred injuries like broken collar bones and wrists, which can be extremely painful, debilitating and cause symptoms for as much as two years, usually sit below the proposed £5,000 threshold.
MP Andrew Selous, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, said: "I'm pleased to see the Ministry of Justice has listened to the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, campaigners and the 7,000 people who wrote to their MPs, and in doing so ensure our most vulnerable road users will always have access to justice when they need it."
Other road users not so lucky
The personal injury reforms are being brought in because the Government believes many claims currently are 'minor, exaggerated or fraudulent' and are leading to an increase in car insurance premiums for innocent motorists.
And although cyclists and other vulnerable road users have won a concession, other road users injured through no fault of their own will still struggle to get justice.
The changes mean that any claim up to £5,000 for road traffic claims, or £2,000 for other personal injury claims, will be heard in the County Court where you either have to represent yourself or pay for a lawyer to represent you, but without being able to reclaim the costs of this.
This will put ordinary people who cannot afford a lawyer at a huge disadvantage with many deterred from either making a claim or asserting their legal rights.
Neither acceptable nor reasonable
Law Society president, Christina Blacklaws, said: "While we are glad that the Ministry of Justice has listened to some of our concerns and decided to remove vulnerable road users from the measures in the bill, we simply cannot accept that a £5,000 small claims limit for motoring claims is reasonable.
"The Law Society has consistently warned the proposed changes to the rules for personal injury claims will create the paradox that someone hurt in a road traffic accident will be entitled to less compensation under the new proposed tariff system than if they had sustained the injury another way.
"The government is treating injuries that would be regarded as grievous bodily harm in the criminal courts as small claims in the civil courts. A new limit of £5,000 will mean people will be forced to bring claims themselves for injuries including facial scarring, fractured ribs, a bruised chest and whiplash to the neck, without access to expert legal advice."
The government's planned 'whiplash' changes have recently been pushed back to April 2020.
A new set of compensation limits have also been proposed for whiplash claims:
- £225 total damages for injuries lasting less than three months;
- £450 for injuries up to six months;
- The maximum fixed tariff for a whiplash injury, applying where victims have suffered up to 24 months, is £3,725.
The Civil Liability Bill will proceed next to the committee stage.
Wards Solicitors' Angela Carnell has more than 20 years' experience of representing claimants injured as a result of road accidents. For help on this area of the law, please contact her or any member of the Accident and Injury team.