Small claims limit reforms will have knock-on effect for legal profession

13 February, 2018

The Law Society has voiced concerns that changes to the small claims limit in relation to road traffic and personal injury cases could have an adverse effect on both law firms and claimants.

It says that upcoming changes – which will see the small claims limit increase to £5,000 for motoring claims and £2,000 for non-road traffic personal injury cases – will effectively remove “solicitors from the claimant side of the process.”

In a new report, the Society claims that these new figures would force a large proportion of claimants to have to face Court without legal representation, and without the support of medical professionals.

“The Law Society cannot accept that a £5,000 limit for motoring claims is reasonable. It will mean injuries such as facial scarring, fractured ribs, a bruised chest and whiplash to the neck will be considered as ‘small claims’, and people will be forced to seek compensation without legal advice,” said Law Society President, Joe Egan.

In its report, the Society estimates that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of medical experts would decline to be instructed to give evidence on behalf of a claimant if a solicitor was not involved in the case – something which would likely become a common occurrence under the new regime.

This would prove problematic for both claimants and for law firms, with the former losing the support of doctors and the latter losing a significant amount of business, the Society suggests.

Mr Egan also voiced concerns that an increase in the number of litigants in person would “clog up the Court system.”

“The ‘David and Goliath’ analogy could not be more apt,” he said.

“By raising the small claims limit, the Government is removing solicitors from the claimant side of the process.

“Meanwhile, defendant insurers will still have the benefit of trained claims handlers who will have recourse to formal legal advice throughout the process.”

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