John Das has written to the Derby Telegraph about the government’s disastrous plans to limit access to justice in personal injury cases. Since John’s letter, the government has changed its plans slightly, but is still proposing to significantly reduce the amount of compensation payable for ‘whiplash’ injuries and to massively increase the small claims limit in road traffic accident cases, along with a considerable increase in the small claims limit for all other types of personal injury case. This will mean that most people will not be able to afford to use a solicitor to claim compensation if they are injured in a road traffic accident and many more will be deprived of legal representation in other types of accident too.

Expected to come into force during 2018, the planned changes will move the current minimum claim value for road traffic accidents from its present level of £1,000, to the new higher limit of £5,000. The government also plans to double the minimum claim value for other types of personal injury, bringing it up to £2,000. This will rob many accident victims of legal representation if they wish to make a claim. The reason for this is that in successful claims, which exceed the minimum small claims limit, the defendant pays towards the legal costs of the injured person, but if a claim value is below this minimum amount, the defendant doesn’t have to pay those legal costs, even if the defendant is found entirely to blame and the injured person wins the case in full.

With no contribution towards their legal costs, this could well mean that innocent victims of injuries won’t be able to afford to use a solicitor at all if they are not confident of a compensation claim worth a minimum of £5,000, where they were injured in a road accident, or £2,000, where they were injured in any other type of accident, such as at work or in a public place.

The proposed change in the legal system is said to be an attempt to combat fraudulent claims, which the government claims should theoretically lead to a reduction in car insurance premiums across the board, as the new proposals are expected to save the insurance companies an estimated £1bn every year. However, John Das disagrees that this will actually result in any significant reduction in insurance costs for most drivers, citing the 2012 injury claims overhaul where the car insurance industry made similar promises but, despite making huge savings in the reforms, none of these savings were ever passed on to drivers, as premiums continue to increase.

Read John’s full letter here.