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Proposed limits on RTA cases would see more self representations say lawyers

Date: (13 December 2012)    |    

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Accident claim lawyers have criticised the government plans to raise the small claims limit on whiplash cases or include all RTA cases to £5,000.
A Ministry of Justice consultation is being held on the issue which would compel all whiplash victims to represent themselves.
A Personal injury lawyer and a partner in a firm, said that the small claims track would face the ultimate David and Goliath scenario with people appearing for their own claims with no legal knowledge against large corporate defendants with the best lawyers representing the corporate sector with more funds available at their disposal which tilts the balance in their favour.
If the government was serious to tackle the problem it should focus on mushrooming claims management companies who add little or no value instead making genuine victims suffer further. They should be banned from text messaging and cold calling to begin with the lawyer said.
The president of Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), Karl Tonks said that independent research had found that in the case of a whiplash injury 70 percent of people would not know exactly how much to claim while defendants and their insurance companies would exactly know the worth of a claim and the insurance company as per its duty would keep its shareholders interests first and not the injured people he added.
If the new limit system is introduced then many people would be put off from even trying to make an application as they would believe getting a fair and just compensation would be almost impossible.
Mr Tonks said that whiplash claims had already seen a fall of 24,000 last year and of those who have ever had a whiplash injury, almost 40 per cent have never claimed compensation for it.
Iain Stark, Chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, said the proposals “could spell disaster for both consumers and the legal profession” and the “ultimate victim” would be access to justice.
He said he could foresee a scenario where unregulated industry would be coming up to handle claims below £5,000 with courts being flooded with litigants in person, putting more stress on resource crunched courts.
The government was already in consultation to reduce legal fees by 60 percent to whiplash cases worth up to £10,000 where liability was admitted. Most cases would be removed from the system and only higher valued and complex cases would be left at an unfairly low fee levels Mr Stark added.
Defendant lawyers gave the plans an usual cautious welcome.
One such defence lawyer warned that it was important that the Ministry of Justice does not create change for change’s sake.
The government must resist the temptation to push too much through too quickly or they risk undermining the undoubtedly good intentions underpinning this consultation he said