No change to small claims limit for PI claims
The purpose of the small claims procedure is to provide a simplified version of the Court processes for claims valued at less than £1,000, making it easier for lay persons to seek damages when they sustain injury. When the small claims procedure was introduced no provision was made for a successful Claimant to recover their legal costs because it was intended that people would represent themselves.
Recently, arguments have been raised by members of the legal profession, namely insurance companies that the small claims limit should be increased to £5,000. If approved this would leave thousands of claimants without legal representation and the risk of under settlement by insurers.
Simpson Millar therefore welcomes the proposal not to alter the small claims limit as set out in the Department of Constitutional Affairs consultation paper. (Dated 20th April 2007)
Commenting on the consultation, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
'The Government is right to recommend that there should be no change to the small claims limit for personal injury cases. When someone gets injured at work and wants to make a claim against their employers insurance company, they need good legal advice to help them win their case.
Simpson Millar recognises through its established working relationship with Trade Unions that any raising of the small claims limit would restrict many workers who are subjected to inadequate and unsafe working environments from obtaining the compensation they deserve.
Personal injury claims can be complex and cover areas of law which the general public have no knowledge of. Within a personal injury claim there are several elements to prove i.e. the correct identity of the Defendant; how the accident happened; that the injuries suffered were caused as a direct result of the accident; that there has been negligence and/or a breach of statutory duty; and value the claim. The Defendant in most cases will be represented by an insurer with access to expert legal advice. The Association of District Judges has said that ‘Lay people would be disadvantaged if they had to arrange for investigation of medical aspects of their claim, in all but the smallest of cases, without the assistance of legal representation.
The Law Society commented recently in their ‘Fast and Fair Brochure’ to highlight their campaign against an increase in the small claims limit. They state that
Solicitors are ideally placed to undertake the investigation because their sole duty is to the injured person, a high level of training is required, they have established and efficient system to deal with the necessary enquires and they are subject to robust regulation’.
A number of surveys recently undertaken have shown that most Claimants would be reluctant to proceed without legal representation and that if they did, their case would not be dealt with fairly.
Simpson Millar welcomes any proposals which would streamline the current process allowing claims to be resolved with speed, but without denying the Claimant of independent legal representation.