The government says that its Civil Liability Bill will crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims. However, concerns have been raised that cyclists and other vulnerable road users could be swept up in these reforms.
Cyclists do not tend to suffer whiplash injuries and when this issue was raised recently in the House of Lords, the government confirmed that cyclists will be excluded from the measures within the Civil Liability Bill.
However, the government does propose secondary legislative changes to increase the limit for which cases are heard in the small claims court for road traffic accident (RTA) related personal injury claims to £5,000 and for all other personal injury claims to £2,000. Below these levels, generally people will not be able to recover their legal costs, even if their case is successful. The proposed increase in the small claims limit will apply to all road users – including cyclists and motorcyclists – and is planned for April 2019.
The government argues that low-value RTA claims, whether whiplash or otherwise, are appropriate for the small claims track and are capable of being dealt with in this way.
I share concerns about the proposed five-fold increase in the small claims limit for all RTA claims. I am concerned that many genuinely injured people may lose out.
Raising the small claims limit could deter people from making a claim or may lead to people doing so without legal assistance and cause further clogging of the court system. The increase is also significantly higher than would be the case if the existing level were increased to reflect inflation. I would like the proposed limits to be reconsidered.
I am concerned these changes will undermine the longstanding legal principle that the guilty party pays and that victims could be left unfairly liable for greater legal costs while insurance companies pocket any savings.