Speaking at the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ annual conference, Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon told delegates:
‘The current environment for making personal injury claims is becoming more hostile. The pace of change in the personal injury litigation landscape is fast and unrelenting and changes seem to lack substantial evidence in support.’
‘We are concerned that the proposed changes may have the effect of hampering access to justice for those seeking to claim compensation for injuries they have suffered through no fault of their own.
‘The Law Society strongly opposes plans to remove the right to recover general damages for minor soft-tissue injuries. We are gravely concerned about how minor soft-tissue injuries will be defined and it is simply wrong, in our view, that people who suffer what could be injuries which impact on their lives through no fault of their own, are unable to recover compensation.
‘The government seemingly believes that plans to raise the small-claims limit for personal injury claims to £5000 and abandon general damages for “minor” whiplash injuries will help stop fraudulent claims. We disagree. It is critical that fraud is tackled but stopping people making legitimate claims is not the answer. 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.’
Catherine Dixon highlighted that:
‘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.’
‘The myths fuelling the perception of a compensation culture are not based on fact and must be tackled. The Young Report, commissioned by prime minister David Cameron, stated that, while there was a perception of a compensation culture, this was not in fact the reality. If the government is looking to tackle fraud, then raising of the small claims and the removal of the right to general damages for minor soft-tissue claims is the wrong approach.’
‘The Law Society await the detail of the government’s proposals and we will be responding to the consultation robustly.’