APIL: Government plans to end 'trivial' injury claims 'utterly groundless'
Vulnerable people are being targeted in 'a game of numbers', says Neil Sugarman
Government plans to plough ahead with reforms to personal injury claims have been branded 'baseless' and 'frustrating' by the incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
'The government's apparent determination to make life harder for people with personal injury claims is both disappointing and deeply frustrating,' said Neil Sugarman at the annual conference for the national lawyers' organisation in Birmingham.
Sugarman, of GLP Solicitors, was reacting to comments made by justice minister Lord Faulks on the government's civil justice reforms, earlier in the day at the APIL conference.
Faulks said that 'the time is right' for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to raise the small claims threshold for all personal injury claims to £5,000 and reiterated claims that 'those who tried to cheat the system' hike up the cost of insurance for motorists.
A consultation from the MoJ is expected following proposals announced in Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement to raise the small claims limit and scrap general damages for 'minor' whiplash injuries.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) states that whiplash injuries cost the industry £2bn a year, or an average of £90 for each motor insurance policy.
'The government continues to give the impression that injuries which don't attract a great deal of compensation, such as whiplash injuries, are somehow "trivial" or "unnecessary" and that people suffering with those injuries should not be allowed damages for their pain and suffering at all.
'But anyone who has had such an injury knows just how painful and debilitating it can be,' said Sugarman.
'Three years ago the government deferred a decision to force more claims through the small claims court until safeguards are in place to ensure access to justice will not be affected,' he continued.
'Today, it seems that promise has been forgotten, and people forced to bring personal injury claims in the small claims court will still either have to represent themselves or pay for their lawyers because those whose negligence has injured them won't have to pay for their costs.'
'What I find most frustrating of all is the fact that these proposals are utterly groundless,' added the personal injury solicitor.
'Government figures show us that whiplash claims are falling and a whole raft of reforms have been introduced to reduce costs and help prevent fraud. But innocent and vulnerable people are still being targeted in what has become a game of numbers rather than of the needs of individuals.'
Last month, APIL alleged that the government had fallen for an insurance industry 'smokescreen' full of distorted figures on fraudulent motor insurance claims.
An analysis of 2014 figures from the ABI shows that only 0.25 per cent of motor claims are proven to be fraudulent.