What would happen to an 80 year old pedestrian if they were knocked down in 2013?
A bid to change the Small Claims Court limit has been described as ‘draconian’ by one of Britain’s leading solicitors, who gives a harrowing example of what could have happened to an 80 year old client if the change was already in place.
John Hagan works for DPP Law as an accident claims specialist and is a Senior Litigator for the Association of Personal Injury Solicitors. He is strongly against Government plans to shove the small claims threshold up from £1,000 to £5,000 because it will mean that in many serious accident claim cases, the injured person would not be allowed independent legal representation.
So, unless the accident victim has passed the Bar Exam, they are going to struggle to win their case against shrewd insurers if the plans go ahead. As an advocate of law, it is understandable to see how the idea of a seemingly unfair playing field doesn’t sit well with Hagan.
To contextualise his point, Hagan explains the would-be result of a recent case:
“Mrs N, of 80 years, was crossing over a side road, and was already on the carriageway before a parked motorist started up his engine and quickly reversed backwards without looking, knocking my client over and causing her injury.
“Mrs N suffered multiple muscular and bruising injuries to her hips, right hand and back – it was fortunate that she did not break anything, especially in light of her age. She normally lives alone in her own home but as a result of the accident had to stay with relatives for eight weeks requiring assistance with shopping, cooking and personal tasks.
“Mrs N was a very active lady who enjoyed walking in the Lake District but was deprived of being able to enjoy this activity for many months owing to her injuries – her confidence in going out anywhere on her own was severely affected.
“Unfortunately, the value of her injury claim was less than £5,000. If such a case had happened after the proposed increase in the Small Claims limit, Mrs N would not have been able to settle her claim (assuming she even pursued it on her own) for much less than it was worth, several thousands of pounds less, in fact.
“I can say this with confidence, because this was not a case in which the insurers admitted liability. At first they denied liability and then proposed to offer Mrs N a settlement on a 50/50 basis (implying that she and the motorist were equally to blame for the accident), only I knew this was not the truth of the matter and after issuing Court proceedings on behalf of Mrs N, was able to secure a 100% settlement for her.
“If Mrs N was unrepresented, would they simply have taken advantage of her age and lack of experience in legal matters and told her she was completely to blame before sending her away with nothing? That is also entirely possible.”
By employing this emphatic example, Hagan endeavours to raise awareness of the failings of the reforms in an attempt to quash the knee-jerk reaction of which, Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, is steamrolling ahead with.
Indeed the sudden and dramatic 400% increase in the Small Claims limit pays little attention to the recommendations of Sir Rupert Jackson’s comprehensive report on the Civil Justice System in 2009 stating the £1,000 limit should remain. The Government itself appeared to rule out any increase only just last year.
According to figures released by the Association of British Insurers in September, fabricated claims make up a mere 7% of the total meaning the actual cost of fraud in this area is an annual £140 million. This translates as £4 per year to the individual UK driver.
John Hagan therefore begs the question whether the cost of losing a few pounds outweighs the balance of Justice for Mrs N, and all other genuine victims across the country.