New legislation that could prevent you from re-claiming legal aid

People suing for personal injuries such as ‘whiplash’ will no longer be able to claim back the legal costs after a court case, when a new law is passed in April 2020 – will this affect your claim?

Paul Bennett, a specialist in personal injury and clinical negligence at Neath and SA1 based law firm Hutchinson Thomas, urges claimants to be aware that future legislation will affect how much they can claim back in legal expenses after a case regarding ‘small claims’ personal injuries.

The legislation, which will come into effect in April 2020, will raise the ‘small claims limit’ for personal injury from £1,000 to £2,000. Small claims injuries, as defined by their average monetary claim, includes whiplash, minor psychological claims and back strain – the monetary award is also affected by how long the symptoms last for.

From April 2020 onwards, individuals who are in the process of a small claims case will not be able to recover legal costs from those they are suing – regardless of whether they win or not. The most significant effect of this legislation, is that this could be a reality for 350,000 people who suffer small claims injuries annually.

The government predicts that the legislation will create less costs for insurers, as they will receive less claims, and will theoretically pass on savings of £40 a year to motorists by reduced insurance renewals. However, legal professionals have argued that many people who cannot afford legal help will simply not bring the case to court.

In the House of Commons report on the matter, it shows that the argument for the new legislation is based on the perceived amount of fraudulent and exaggerated cases. Additionally, the MPs responsible for putting forward the new bill believe that these cases are ‘straightforward’ enough for claimants to represent themselves.

Only time will tell if increasing the small claims limit will reduce the number of claims that come forward. However, several legal professionals have provided anecdotal evidence of an increased drop off-rate in cases in the past, after tribunal fees rose (and then a decreased drop off-rate when they were abolished.)

Bennett stresses the importance of being aware of these changes before pursuing a personal injury case in the future.

“Although the implementation of this legislation is still roughly two years away, it would be sensible to begin planning as soon as possible if you know you can’t afford the legal costs of a personal injury case. This can involve setting up a rainy-day fund, or if you are considering self-representation it would always be prudent to do your own research of similar cases in the past.

“If there’s one positive to be taken from the introduction of these reforms, it’s the potential for lower insurance premiums. As we saw when the reforms were first introduced in April 2013, insurance premiums have already come down by an average of £80. However, this all depends on the collective decision of insurers, as there is no obligation of them to pass on these savings to their customers.”

For expert legal advice about personal injury law – contact Paul on 01639 640154 or email: