NEW legislation to be debated in the Commons tomorrow could see access to justice further restricted through a substantial reduction in the amount of compensation paid for whiplash injuries.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon attacked the Civil Liability Bill as another tool for the Tories to limit justice, following the government’s imposition of employment tribunal fees — later ruled unlawful — and deep cuts to legal aid.
The government claimed that the Bill would reduce the number of fraudulent claims.
But Mr Burgon said that the creation of a a “one size fits all” tariff for compensation would mean that the payout to someone with a whiplash injury lasting around a year would be slashed from £3,100 to £1,250, a reduction of 60 per cent.
“Such a fall in compensation is a very big deal for victims on low wages,” he said adding that the Bill is tied to wider reforms that would make it harder to obtain compensation for workplace injuries.
The legislation would also raise the lower limit for recovering costs in personal injury cases from £1,000 to £2,000 — from £1,000 to £5,000 in road traffic accident cases — meaning that more claims will be dealt with by the small claims track, where no legal costs are awarded even if a claim is successful.
This would leave many claimants without legal representation, even when taking on insurers with their own lawyers, Mr Burgon said.
“Once again, we see how the Conservatives are trying to rig our justice system in favour of the rich and powerful, just as they have done with their unlawful employment tribunal fees and deep cuts to legal aid,” he said.
“This legislation appears to be nothing more than cover for lining the pockets of insurance companies at the expense of working people. It would substantially reduce compensation for genuinely injured people, and tens of thousands of people would be priced out of getting proper legal representation.
“Labour opposes this legislation and will be proposing radical amendments to it later this week.
“Unless the government removes all the measures that create yet more barriers to justice then we will be voting against it.”
Thompsons Solicitors head of policy Tom Jones said it was “disappointing” that Labour would only impose a one-line whip on MPs.
He branded the legislation “a full-scale attack on the ability of working people to bring personal injury claims when injured through no fault of their own.”
Mr Jones added: “If there is to be real opposition to the proposals, the Bill must be opposed at every stage.
“This is the Tory Party delivering to big business. Insurers have already saved £11 billion since 2012 and, on the government’s own estimates, will save £1.1bn per year going forward.
“The government should be shamed at every opportunity for its hiding unjustified small claims increases from the face of the Bill and for the Bill’s blatant delivery of yet more profits to already bloated insurance companies.”
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