Archive for June 11th, 2013

UK Legal system takes a turn for the worse
John Spencer

The justice system was in need of reform but the changes now enforced are a massive disappointment, to say the least.  In early May, I spoke at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum regarding LASPO and today, my views remain the same.

Not only did April see the UK legal system unimproved by dramatic legislative reforms, it saw the public’s access to justice further suppressed.

During the planning phase, LASPO was promised to guarantee access to justice.  Now, it is becoming apparent that such promises were just noise and that injured people will actually find it even more challenging to get independent legal guidance – simply because solicitors cannot afford to take on certain cases.

The proposal to extend the small claims limit to £5,000 for personal injury claims will see more whiplash cases flushed into an arena where victims will have little chance of getting justice. During my speech in Westminster, I mentioned that the typical whiplash claimant will be faced with three options:

  • Fight the case alone, without any legal assistance, against the defending insurer and its lawyer
  • Personally pay for solicitor fees
  • Drop the claim and give up on acquiring justice for their injuries

Comprehensive input from legal and medical professionals is often a strict requisite for successful PI claims. Without this, a huge chunk of power shifts to the defending insurer in the small claims court and this alone is a direct negative consequence of LASPO.

On top of that, the injured person is forced to cope with the stress of court proceedings. In an attempt to get justice for their injuries, they could be exposed to intimidation and, sometimes, made to feel like a fraudster.

A Dreadful Possibility

The small claims court floodgates could open even wider, as reports suggest Chris Grayling might just extend the limit by a further £10,000. If such an extension is implemented it can only be bad news for injured people, as severe case types (including those involving certain levels of brain damage) could also be steered into the ‘small’ claims court.

Again, to recycle an example from my talk in early May; £14k was paid out in compensation to a toddler who sustained multiple bite wounds all over her body and face. The little girl was left permanently scarred and needed a substantial amount of reconstructive surgery.

If the small claims limit was pushed to £15k at the time of this case, the girl’s family would have been faced with the dreadful three options listed above. So, truthfully, has LASPO improved the innocent’s access to justice or edged it far out of affordable reach?


About The Author

John Spencer is Director of Spencers Solicitors in Derbyshire whose practice deals with all types of accident claims and personal injury cases. John is a former Chairman of MASS and an Executive Committee member and fellow of APIL.

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information by Beecham Peacock, Solicitors

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