The Association of British Insurers have said they do not believe raising the small claims limit to £5,000 for personal injury cases will affect access to justice. Following the Transport Committee’s Whiplash Inquiry on 17th June the head of motor and liability, James Dalton said:
“Naturally there has been a howl of protest from the personal injury lawyers who can see that the gravy train of excessive fees may soon hit the buffers. They argue that “access to justice” will be undermined and that lawyers are needed to represent the interests of the claimant.”
Senior partner at Bott and Co, David Bott said he believes that a raise would negatively affect the justice system in a number of ways, most notably with more litigants in person, which would flood the Small Claims Court. He said:
“The overall results would be more involvement from insurance companies and claims management companies, with many claimants left without legal representation. If claimants are not advised by solicitors it will be difficult for them to know if they have a good case or not.
We, as solicitors currently act as ‘gatekeepers’, if the small claims limit rises the Small Claims Court will become flooded with litigants.”
James Dalton also attacked whiplash claimants as he thinks it is “inconceivable” that the 500,000 whiplash claims made every year are genuine. He described whiplash as the “fraud of choice” for the UK, because he does not believe insurers can disprove it.
If the small claims limit rises the Small Claims Court will become flooded with litigants.
David Bott responded: “The ABI’s comments regarding whiplash being the “fraud of choice”, surely an increase in the small claims track limit will only lead to an increase in fraud as the filter applied by claimant lawyers is removed from the system.”
Before the inquiry personal injury lawyers demanded a cap on insurance companies advertising costs. The demand was made in written evidence by the current APIL President Matthew Stockwell before evidence was taken at the whiplash inquiry on Monday 17th June. He described insurance advertising spending as ‘astronomical’ and Andrew Ritchie QC, head of 9 Gough Square chambers said the money could be better used reducing premiums instead of increasing insurer’s market share.