Thompsons Solicitors has called on the government to avoid a “feeding frenzy for claims companies” and scrap the increase in the small claims limit for people injured at work.

In a parliamentary event earlier today, co-hosted by union USDAW and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Thompsons Solicitors urged the government to “stand up for the injured worker” and exempt employers’ liability and public liability from the upcoming Civil Liability Act.

Speaking at the event, which also included contributions from The Law Society and The British Safety Council, Thompsons’ head of personal injury strategy, Gerard Stilliard, said:

“Everyone in this room is in agreement that injured workers matter.

“They matter to the injured and their family, to the employer because they want them better and back to work, and to the insurers because they want to limit liability.

“They matter to the government because injured workers cost the NHS, can end up using the benefits system and ultimately unproductive workers hurt the economy.

“They matter to us as lawyers because we are the gatekeepers who deal with their worry, sort out the paperwork and try to get them compensation they can see as fair because they have had professionals on their side.

“Since August last year you have had a major trade union, a pretty big claimant law firm and the ABI all agreed and joined here today by the BSC and the Law Society in agreement that workers’ claims - Employers Liability and Public Liability claims - aren’t the same as RTA whiplash claims which is what the Civil Liability Act is all about.

“Unlike with whiplash claims, no one has said that there is a problem with fraudulent EL or PL claims or a boom in them. In fact, the numbers are thankfully dropping.

“No insurer or insurance company representative has said that including EL and PL in the small claims increase will impact negatively or positively on the motor insurance premium reductions promised on the back of the whiplash reforms. I will wager that taking EL and PL out of the equation won’t have any impact on those premiums.

“Lord Justice Jackson didn’t call for the small claims limit to increase for EL or PL. He talked about the ‘asymmetrical relationship’ between the insured employer and the injured worker and therefore the need for workers to be represented. 

“In Scotland, using the same language of asymmetry they exempted injured workers claims from their equivalent of the small claims track.

“We are told we need to come together as a United Kingdom. Having a worker north of the border with legal help when they are injured but no such help to those injured at work in England and Wales doesn't sound very unifying to me.

“And what does taking away rights they have enjoyed for generations say to a worker, perhaps pleased that ‘Brexit is done’ but nervous about what the future holds? 

“No system is perfect, but all represented on this platform agree that the answer isn’t to unleash claims companies and cold callers on injured workers. And that is a real risk here.

“If you increase the small claims limit and remove the lawyers, who moves in on those 40-50 per cent of claims then left with no representation? It’s a feeding frenzy for the claims companies who were condemned by MP after MP and Peer after Peer as the Civil Liability Bill made its passage through parliament.

“The government has been bold and excluded cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and horse riders – who are defined as vulnerable road users - from the impact of the Civil Liability Bill. But I can see problems coming with definitions. What of the cycling postie, the bobby on the beat, the courier delivery driver or the teacher hurt walking with their class to an event? They all get a lawyer to help them when injured but their colleague injured in the depot, in the station or the sorting office doesn’t.

“The fair answer, the one that all sides of the debate here today are all agreed on, to exclude EL and PL claims from the proposed small claims limit increase. This will also make the route to RTA reform simpler and easier to deliver.

“There is a prize here for the injured, for their families, for insurers, for the NHS and the economy and it’s a get out of jail card for a government wanting to be seen to be delivering but not wanting to be seen as doing over workers in the process, and the public still get to keep the motor insurance premium reductions. 

“The government needs to be bold, stand up for the injured worker and exempt EL and PL claims from the proposed small claims increase.”