If a controversial proposal by the Government and the insurance industry is approved, people who are injured through no fault of their own and are seeking less than £5,000 in damages will have to represent themselves in the Small Claims Court from April 2013.
That will be the effect of an increase in the small claims limit from its present level of £1,000, warns Neille Ryan, a partner and an expert in personal injury cases with leading law firm Furley Page.
Neille said no-win no-fee agreements which are commonplace now can only work where the solicitor has a chance of getting their costs back from the other side if they win the case.
Today that chance of costs recovery applies as long as the damages are more than the present small claims limit of £1,000, so solicitors will act on a no-win no-fee basis where the injury is worth more than £1,000.
“If a solicitor’s costs will only be paid where the injury is worth more than £5,000 then the vast majority of injury claimants will be faced with a stark choice – instruct an independent legal advisor and pay all of their costs yourself, or claim without the help of a solicitor and take on the insurance company’s team of lawyers yourself.
“A word of warning though – £5,000 is a substantial sum and would draw in many complex injuries, vulnerable claimants and hard-to-prove claims.
“For example, I dread to think how retired worker Roy Uden would have coped, on his own, in his fight against Scotia Gas for the Vibration White Finger caused by his use of percussive tools in his job,” said Neille.
Neille became interested in miners’ industrial disease claims through working on the first successful claim against British Coal for chronic bronchitis and emphysema. He has since acted for thousands of former miners, workers from other industries or their families, pursuing claims for respiratory disease, Vibration White Finger, and investigating such claims under-settled by other firms.
“Typical claims worth less than £5,000 could include a broken leg, a broken arm, a collapsed lung or loss of a spleen. This is not just about so-called dodgy whiplash claims after motor accidents, which of course has attracted much press criticism lately.
“Even the most blinkered of insurers would admit that you cannot fake a broken leg, yet if the insurers get their way such victims will have to fend for themselves in the Small Claims Court or give up a chunk of their compensation in legal fees.
“This proposal put forward by the insurance industry and the Government seems to be in favour but it is not right and must be resisted or it may become law next year,” added Neille.
For further advice on personal injury cases, contact Neille Ryan on 01227 763939.
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