The small claims limit for personal injury claims is currently set at £1000. Most trivial and short-lived injuries fall in this bracket. However, the Government is again considering raising the court small claims limit from £1000 to £5000. The proposed increase will affect all personal injury claims. What would this mean for injured Claimants?
What would a £5000 small claims limit mean for injured Claimants?
If the small claims limit is raised to £5000 many more injuries will be classed as ‘small claims’. This will include most soft tissue injuries, such as strains, muscle damage, ligament damage, and some fractures.
Why are ‘small claims’ different to ‘normal’ claims?
All claims are subject to the same rules regarding liability (or fault) and evidence regardless of the value of the claim. Compensation is paid for each in the same way. However, if a claim falls below the small claims limit it is only possible to recover a minimal contribution towards costs from the opponent insurers. Even if the claim is successful. This is because ‘small claims’ are supposed to be very simple claims that can be resolved quickly without the need for a solicitor.
Why would raising the small claims limit to £5000 be a problem for injured claimants?
The reality is that many people who suffer a very transient, short lived injury which resolves within days will not bother to bring a claim at all. If a full recovery is made from a very minor injury within a few days then this may not be seen as such an issue. But what about injuries that cause pain and symptoms for 18 months?
What about injuries that limit a person’s ability to work or drive or enjoy their hobbies for weeks or months? What about cases where liability is disputed by the other side and the insurers refuse to pay any compensation at all? Would you consider such cases ‘small claims’ that can be resolved without the help of a solicitor?
Claims involving injuries worth compensation of up £5000 are not small claims.
These claims can be complex and may involve legal argument on the issue of liability. They may require multiple medical reports to prove the extent of the injury. They simply do not belong in the ‘small claims’ system.
Insurers argue that raising the small claim limit to £5000 will reduce fraud. This is not the case. In fact, cases where fraud is alleged are always dealt with by the court outside of the small claim system, regardless of the value of the claim. We wrote about this in our blog Whiplash Reforms: Penalise the Majority for the Actions of the Few
Access to justice …. denied?
Raising the small claims limit will simply make it harder for genuinely injured claimants to obtain compensation. Claimants will still need the help of solicitors to make these claims but the insurers will not be required to pay a proper proportion of those costs involved. The result will be innocently injured Claimants paying more costs out of the compensation recovered.
Alternatively, injured people could try to pursue the claims themselves. How would they know if their claim is worth £1000 or £5000 without legal advice? How would they know how to fight an insurer who disputes liability for the claim?
Please tell us what you think: Do you think that £5000 is a ‘small’ claim?
To a wealthy person £5000 may seem like a trivial amount but to most people £5000 is not ‘small change’. We would love to hear your views on whether you feel that a claim worth £5000 should be classed as a ‘small claim’.
Would you be happy fighting a large insurer for compensation for a claim worth up to £5000 without your own legal advice?
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