Good Afternoon all,
Finally, I have some good news to report for injured people in the world of injury compensation claims, but first of all a reminder of the context.
The year 2013 will probably remain imprinted on the minds of all lawyers who work in the field of injury compensation claims for ever. There has never been a year of so much change and those particular changes have been of such a seismic kind. Please forgive us if we’ve gone on about this a bit in our regular blogs (and I won’t repeat it all now), but put very simply, the climate for somebody who has been blamelessly injured and seeks some sort of compensation for this in our country has become much, much bleaker. Justice is in shorter supply for individual underdogs and that saddens me.
In trying to “handbag” the so called “compensation culture” the Government has eroded the rights of individuals and played right into the hands of the ginormous insurance companies who moan piously about this “claims culture”, but make billion pound profits year on year. They wring their hands and talk about the need to put up premiums, but they are not too keen to talk about their massive profits or the joy of their shareholders. They also lobby and lobby and lobby and pour treacle into the ears of the politicians. It seems to me that the hefty premiums they charge fund dividends for shareholders and investors.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there is a genuine problem with some fraudulent or exaggerated claims, but in my experience these are usually pretty easy to spot and the insurance industry ought to be fighting those claims, not paying them out and then moaning. The cynic in me suspects that the insurance industry is delighted to have the pretext or excuse of a nebulous, insinuated cheating culture so they can play the “good guys” and push the Government into what we have seen – an over-reaction to the problem and a crushing of the rights of the little guy.
As the saying goes, “we are where we are”. Life goes on and injured people can still bring a claim and we can still help them. It is just a bit more difficult and less friendly or fair to the underdog any more.
So what is the good news then?
In addition to all of the other changes the Government was seriously thinking of increasing the small claims limit for injury claims. At the moment, if you have an injury that is serious enough to attract likely compensation of £1,000.00 or more then you can go to a Solicitor for help. If you have a good claim and win it then your opponent has to pay you your compensation and at least a contribution towards the legal fees of your Solicitor. As a general rule, you will keep at least 75% of any compensation you win and the insurers are forced by the presence of the Solicitors to pay fair and decent compensation and to behave honourably.
This is important because, putting it very bluntly, you cannot trust the insurance industry to respond fully, openly and fairly if you try to bring a claim without a Solicitor to help. The insurers cry foul when they are accused of this, but their charge sheet is too long and, quite frankly, the Government have shown they don’t trust them to behave honourably either.
The government had toyed with the idea of increasing the small claims limit to about £5,000.00 or so, meaning that individuals with injuries worth up to that amount would have to think twice about using a Solicitor because the opponent would not even contribute to the cost of that Solicitor. These are starting to be quite hefty claims with a lot of complexity and the insurers would love to avoid having pesky lawyers involved who would ask awkward questions of them and make sure they pay fair compensation. The insurers would love to deal direct with the injured person and you simply can’t expect them to play fair.
Thankfully, the Government changed its mind and decided it could not trust the insurance industry and so the limit stays at £1,000.00. This is one small but important decision that has gone in the favour of the underdog.