Restriction on increase in small claims limit for relevant personal injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 11 Medi 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Llafur, High Peak 3:15, 11 Medi 2018

I spent more than 20 years working for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. In many claims involving road traffic accidents and workplace injuries, claimants were referred by their union to a solicitor who gave them the support they needed to bring a case. As the hon. Gentleman set out, lawyers are experienced and often give claimants the advice they need about whether they can take a claim forward or whether that is not worth doing, and therefore protect district judges and the court system. Projections show that there will be an extra 36,000 cases a year in the small claims court. With the best will in the world, district judges, who are already struggling, will not be able to cope with that additional workload. That is what the district judges themselves said in response to the consultation. [Interruption.] They said it whether the Minister chooses to shake his head or not.

Many younger claimants and those who do not have experience of dealing with the legal system will find it much harder to bring a case themselves. This is not just a question of compensation up to the level we are discussing for minor cases. We have debated the figure for general damages but, as the Minister said, there are exceptional circumstances payments and compensation for loss of wages on the back of that, so an individual’s total claim may be much higher than the limit on small claims. I note that even someone with a claim for a whiplash injury that lasted up to two years will fall under the £5,000 small claims limit. Even someone who suffered an injury that prevented them from working for two years will not be able to take their case to the general court, but will have to represent themselves in the small claims court. The associated loss of wages may have a huge impact on their life and wellbeing.

I hope the Minister looks again at this measure, which will severely disadvantage people who are not able to take claims through themselves. People often need a lawyer to support them. That would make the system more efficient and effective, and that is what we argue for.