Summer Holiday Homework on Compensation Claims

Whilst the summer is a time to enjoy time with our families – and I’m enjoying spending time with my children – it’s also a chance to prepare for the ‘term’ ahead.

So while I’m getting school uniforms ready, I’m also preparing for a busy September in Parliament.

The two weeks before the conference season have become a time to try to sneak through unpopular legislation when MPs have been away from London and are less able to organise cross-party opposition.

This Parliament’s first day back on 4th September will see a bill that will decimate the compensation for innocent victims of road and workplace accidents.

The measures in the Civil Liabilities Bill have long been lobbied for by the powerful insurance industry and if passed, will add over £1 billion to insurance companies’ already hefty profits.

The government claims the Bill is about reducing fraudulent insurance claims for whiplash, introducing a tariff that will cut compensation levels to less than half their current average value. Currently the level is decided by a judge based on the impact of the injury on the victim’s life and livelihood.

The Bill also increases the limit for compensation which must be sought through the Small Claims Court. This is an important change because in the Small Claims Court you cannot claim for your legal costs, even if you win your claim.

For traffic accidents, the limit will be raised from £1,000 to £5,000 and will apply to all injuries, not just to motorists, but to injured cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders as well.

This would mean 70% of vulnerable road users with serious injuries, such as fractures, would have to go to court, with no legal support, facing the experienced legal team of the insurance company whose job is to argue that the accident was the fault of the injured claimant.

For accidents at work, the Small Claims limit doubles to £2,000.  Around 40% of people injured at work would be unable to have a solicitor to help them claim the compensation they are due, while facing their employer’s legal team as well as the insurance company.

In such circumstances most people are unlikely to make a claim, even if they’ve suffered injury and financial loss through being off work.

District judges have come out strongly against the proposals, and the Justice Select Committee say the proposals are a barrier to justice.  But the government ploughs on, hoping that MPs will not be organised enough to oppose their proposals.

For me, it comes down to basic fairness, as well as support for the many people injured on our roads or at work.

My children are very pleased to have no summer holiday homework, but with issues like this coming up, I’m making sure that I’m doing mine.