The government want to take away your right to free or affordable legal representation if you’re injured.

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What do you need to know?

For now...

If you are injured and your claim is worth over £1,000 any legal fees for a lawyer to fight for you to get back any losses you have suffered and compensation for your injuries, are paid by the person responsible for your injuries. The principle that the ‘polluter pays’ is a long established right in UK law.

But…

The former Conservative government wanted to strip you of this right by increasing the small claims limit.* If the value of your compensation for pain and suffering falls below the new small claims limit, you will end up having to pay for your own legal fees or fighting the insurers on your own in your own time. Wherever you are injured, including at work – you would have to pay for the legal help you need, and deserve, from your compensation.

What now?

The current government still want to try and change the law, and whilst they have said that it is all about whiplash claims, their proposals will impact on all injured people wherever their accident occurs, including at work. Until the government shows they have listened to protest from the judiciary, MPs and voters and confirms they are not going to change the small claims limit, our campaign continues.

* Previously, the only personal injury cases heard in the small claims court where ones where the anticipated damages for your pain and suffering were less than £1,000. The other cases in the small claims court where you can’t recover legal costs, so most people run the cases themselves without help from a lawyer are things like a dispute over a mobile phone bill or a washing machine. Personal injury claims have always been treated differently because they can be complicated and can include police reports and medical reports and evidence about what happened and because the long term consequences can be dramatic if people don’t get proper advice.

The last government wanted to increase the small claims limit by 100% to £2,000 in all non-road traffic personal injury cases and by 400% to £5,000 in road accidents. That would mean over 90% of personal injury cases would end up in the small claims court.

Why does the government want to do this?

The government has said it is all about fraud in whiplash claims and yet their proposals are going to change the law so that no matter where you were injured, even at work, you will have to pay for your own legal fees, rather than those fees being paid by the person who caused your injury.

Insurers have paid out 30% less in motor accident costs than they did in 2010, saving them over £8bn.

Workplace accident claims have fallen 12% in the last decade.

Total number of injury cases has dropped by 6% since 2013.

The insurers have been saying there is a problem with fraud. And yet they paid out 99% of all road traffic accident claims last year which suggests to us that if there is fraud, it’s only 1% of all claims (making their suggestions that there is a ‘crisis’ seem more than a little thin) or they are paying out in cases they should be fighting. If they suspect fraud, they should report it to police and not pay out.

The previous government planned to change the law so that the innocent victims of injury would have to pay for their own legal fees, rather than them being paid by the person who caused their injury.

Ask your newly-elected local MP where they stand on raising the small claims limit.

But what are the facts?

Tax Tax Tax

The last government increased insurance premium tax twice in the last 12 months. The insurers made you pay that.
You paid more.

+15%

Premiums are higher now than they were in 2010, and have increased by 15% in the last year.
You're paying more.

-12%

Government data shows employer’s liability claims (aka workplace accidents) dropped 12% over the last decade and there’s no allegation of fraud in these types of cases. So why were they included in the last set of proposals?
You lose rights.

 

The last government said the proposed £2,000 limit for small claims reflects inflation, but that’s simply not true. If they increased the small claims limit using the Retail Price Index or Consumer Price Index (since the last small claims limit increase in 1999), it would only be about £1,500.
You’re losing rights – but not your voice.

So who would pay for this?

The last government provided an ‘impact assessment’ that said increasing the small claims limit would mean the Treasury losing £135 million. This means every motorist in the UK would be paying insurers twice – once as taxpayers and then again as motorists.

Oh, and cost the NHS £13 million – that’s before taking into account the associated in-patient or ambulance costs.


Who would really benefit?

Without a doubt, the insurance industry. The government admitted in their ‘impact assessment’ that the changes would mean insurers would get £200 million more in profit every year. This is on top of already vastly over-inflated salaries: in 2016, the then CEOs of four insurance companies received packages ranging from £3.38 million to £11.25 million.

...

 

£11,252,370

...

 

£3,381,764*

...

Mark Wilson, CEO

£4,352,000

...

Paul Geddes, CEO

£4,066,000

*(3,932,284 Euros converted to GBP on 30 March 2017)

This government, like the last, is happy to throw away your rights to legal advice and rip off the NHS and the Treasury whilst they do so, leaving CEOs of insurance companies to pocket your protection.
#FeedingFatCats

How were the previous proposals going to affect me?

The proposed changes have the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of people injured through no fault of their own every year. Their changes meant that regardless of where you were injured – even at work – the chances are you would have to pay out most of what was due to you in compensation for your injuries and your losses and expenses in legal fees.

The alternative would mean making a compensation claim by yourself, without the support of a professional lawyer. Then, you’d be up against a multinational company, who would, of course, use a lawyer.

What about the new proposals?

The government are unclear about how exactly they intend to change the law around legal representation after an injury in the Civil Liability Bill. So far they have talked about introducing a new fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries with a duration of up to two years.

Won’t my premiums go down?

The government previously said that ‘some’ drivers ‘could’ save ‘about’ £40 on their car insurance premium. They have now cut that back to £35.

Only two insurers have ‘promised’ to pass on savings, and the last government was on record saying that it wouldn’t force insurers to pass on the savings they are going to make.

Now insurers are backing out of their promises – in fact, you’re likely to see your premium rise. They’re blaming ‘fraud’, government legislation for serious injury compensation and Insurance Premium Tax for the increases. In fact, anything and anybody but themselves and their relentless drive for profit!

Does anyone think this is a good idea?

The Transport Select Committee in the House of Commons and top legal experts Lord Justice Jackson and Lord Justice Briggs, as well as committees representing all the judges in England and Wales, are all on record as saying that proposals like these mean that the odds – which are already skewed against accident victims - in favour of big insurance companies in personal injury cases are going to get even worse.

When similar issues were raised in Scotland they rejected any change that harmed injured people’s access to justice, based on research which showed that unrepresented personal injury victims were at a significant disadvantage.

The #FeedingFatCats campaign will continue to not only oppose any increases to the small claims limit but is now seeking assurances from the government that they will follow suit in England and Wales to ensure that personal injury is exempt from being included as a ‘small claim’.

Take action! How can you try and stop this?

Letting your local MP know that you are against these changes and help to prevent hundreds of thousands of people a year losing their right to legal protection.

Write to your local MP

Click here to send a pre-drafted letter or email to your local MP opposing the rise in the small claims limit.

Tweet your MP

Click here to send an autotweet to your local MP asking them to support the injured over insurers.

Find out who your MP is at www.theyworkforyou.com

Keep up to date

Watch now to find out what happened when Santa and his Elves travelled all over London to gift insurers with their early Christmas presents, and learn how the government's plans will affect you.

Read the latest news articles, press releases and factsheets relating to the #FeedingFatCats campaign:

The #FeedingFatCats campaign is run by Thompsons Solicitors.