The government has recently introduced the civil liability bill into parliament which will deny access to justice to hundreds of thousands of people injured at work or on the roads every year.
By Henrietta Phillips, Thompsons Solicitors
Currently, anyone who is injured in a workplace accident or on the road can claim back the cost of getting legal help to advise them on a possible claim if their injuries are worth more than £1,000, which is the position for the vast majority of cases. It is only very few claims that are below the £1,000 small claims limit, which means that only a small number of people have to take on the insurers on their own or pay for a lawyer from money that is meant to be compensation for their injuries and losses.
On the face of it the bill is about whiplash claims but the government are going to use hidden powers to increase the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for all road traffic accident cases and from £1,000 to £2,000 for all other cases, including accidents at work. That’s already a lot of money for most workers, let alone £5,000, yet the government think it’s OK to leave people injured through no fault of their own to fight well funded insurers on their own.
It is estimated that up to a million people every year would be left on their own and trade union legal services will be undermined if the bill goes ahead. From the person injured at work who could have lost several months’ pay to cyclists, pedestrians and even children, the injured will be left to fight a legal battle they financially cannot afford against those who can.
The government is intending to turn over law that has stood for generations – that the person who caused the injury should pick up the bill to ensure they get legal help and proper compensation – because they say there has been an increase in the number of false claims:
The government is claiming:
- The bill will enable insurers to cut consumers’ motor insurance premiums by reducing so-called ‘fraudulent’ claims. However, there is no independent evidence of a problem of fraud from people injured on the roads – in fact the only statistics on fraud come from the insurers themselves. If there really was a problem with fraud why did insurers pay out in 99% of all road traffic claims last year? And there is no suggestion of fraud from people injured at work whose claims have nothing to do with motor premiums anyway.
- There is a problem with too many people seeking damages for whiplash injuries in road traffic accidents. However, whiplash has nothing to do with people injured at work, but the government is using a ‘crisis’ ramped up by the insurers to take away rights from everyone.
- There are a ‘high number of claims’ which need to be reduced. However claims costs have fallen by 42% in the last six years (on the Association British Insurers’ own figures) meaning the insurers have saved over £8 billion and the Compensation Recovery Unit shows that all claims are down in 2017.
- The bill will save money for consumers. This is despite the insurers saving an astonishing £11 billion in the last six years while premiums are higher now than ever.
- There would be savings for motorists. First these savings were £50, then they were ‘about £40’ and in the latest Queen’s Speech they were ‘about £35’. The truth is that Insurers cannot be trusted to pass on savings to motorists. They have broken previous similar promises to reduce premiums in the past. The government has already gone on record to say that they won’t even force insurers to do so.
The government have kept quiet about their admission in the bill’s impact assessment that the changes will take £6m every year from the NHS and £140m every year from the taxpayer, while generously providing an extra £1.3bn profit every year to the insurers.
The truth is that the government’s cries of “compensation culture” in whiplash injuries on the roads is actually a fig leaf to distract people from the government’s true intentions: to attack access to justice for all injured people, including workers and to pass £ billions to their rich mates in the insurance industry.
These insurer backed proposals can still be stopped. Help us defeat them. Put pressure on the government to think again by writing to your MP – there is a letter you can use on the Feeding Fat Cats campaign website
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