Access to justice could be hampered if the government presses ahead with changes to personal injury claims, the Law Society's chief executive has argued.

Speaking at the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers' (APIL) annual conference, Catherine Dixon told delegates that the government has failed to substantiate its controversial proposals.

'The current environment for making personal injury claims is becoming more hostile,' said Dixon. 'The pace of change in the personal injury litigation landscape is fast and unrelenting and changes seem to lack substantial evidence in support.'

The comments came the day after the incoming APIL present, Neil Sugarman, denounced the government's plans as 'utterly groundless'.

In his 2015 Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne proposed a rise in the small claims limit and the removal of damages for 'minor' whiplash injuries.

The government is aiming to crack down on the fraud and claims culture, which costs the motor industry £2bn a year, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Dixon said the government was taking the wrong approach: 'It is important to be clear, there is a difference between fraudulent claims and what the government is referring to as unnecessary claims which it believes are being brought for inconsequential injuries.'

ABI figures from 2014 showed that just 0.25 per cent of motor claims are fraudulent; APIL believes only a fraction involved whiplash injuries.

Under the new proposals, claimants would no longer receive any cash settlement for pain and suffering caused for minor soft tissue injuries - a move the Law Society strongly opposes.

'We are gravely concerned about how minor soft tissue injuries will be defined and it is simply wrong, in our view,' argued Dixon, 'that people who suffer what could be injuries which impact on their lives through no fault of their own, are unable to recover compensation'.

'Claims for soft tissue injuries are not considered unnecessary by those who are harmed through no fault of their own. There is a danger to justice if government fails to differentiate between fraudulent, "unnecessary", and legitimate claims.

'If a claim lacks merit it should be defended. Insurers should not pay out on claims which are either fraudulent or indeed on claims which lack legal merit.'

A consultation from the MoJ is expected, which the Law Society confirmed it will respond to robustly.

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