Several staff at this firm signed the petition against the proposed changes to the Small Claims limit for personal injury cases, and the removal of damages of certain whiplash type injuries. The government response was issued this morning. It made me sad.
It talks about false or unnecessary claims, and it mentions the relative simplicity of a claim worth less than £5,000. It however says nothing about why the changes will deal with this, and there is a simple reason for this - because they won't!
The problem with fraud is a society-wide issue and the concept that making a fraudster pay their lawyer from damages which they lying to get anyway, will deter them is fantasy. People who lie and cheat will lie and cheat whatever you do. Scrutiny of the case and proper penalties for the fraudster is the correct and sensible approach.
It is worth noting that one of the major contributors to fraud is the practise of insurers of offering money before they see a medical report confirming the injury - they take a commercial decision and want to moan about the consequences.
Small claims track is designed for straightforward and usually, lower value cases. However the different between the complexity on questions on liability and valuation between, say, a car accident involving two drivers who blame each other and one suffers a punctured lung (which might be worth under £5,000) and business debt is night and day. In fact a business debt exceeding £25,000 will often require little witness evidence and no experts, where the car crash might require many witness and at least one medical expert.
How can a lay person seriously be expected to manage this, or where appropriate, explain to a judge in the early stage of claim that it is too complex for the small claim track? Answer they cannot.
The Government is concerned about the number of whiplash claims and the impact on premiums. Therefore we announced new measures to control costs, including raising the small claims limit to £5,000.