Car accident victim says government small claims reforms would leave people vulnerable18 January 2016
Proposed government reforms could leave road traffic accident victims without legal representation
A man who was injured when a van reversed into him has thanked the solicitors who are fighting his case and criticised the government for proposing reforms that will leave others in his situation without legal representation.
Retired hotel general manager Robert Church, from Surrey, was knocked to the ground by a reversing van at the entrance to a hotel in South Wales Newport in August, 2015. He fractured his wrist and suffered severe cuts and bruising to his face, torso and legs.
Thompsons Solicitors has launched a civil case against the driver of the vehicle and Gwent Police is currently investigating.
Having felt the benefit of proper legal representation, Robert says he is ‘shocked’ that the government is proposing changes that will mean others who are similarly injured in what would be classed as a ‘small claim’ – anything initially valued at less than £5,000 – will not be entitled to free legal advice.
The insurance industry and the government claim that this is due to the simple nature and minor impact of injuries where damages are less than £5,000. Thompsons and Mr Church argue however that there is nothing ‘small’ or ‘simple’ about accidents of this kind when you are involved in them.
Robert Church said: “If my injuries amount to a ‘small’ claim, I’d be terrified to experience a large one.
“The accident really shook me up physically and mentally, and the photos of my injuries speak for themselves. Does the government really believe it’s right that people who have been through this kind of thing should be representing themselves in what is – for lay people – a complicated legal process against large institutions such as insurance companies?
“Accidents like this happen every day, but members of the public like me won’t have the expertise or knowledge to fight their own case. I was an innocent victim of careless, even dangerous, driving and whilst I have the benefit of education and experience, I wouldn’t have wanted to pursue this case on my own never mind face the possibility of going to court against the legal team of the van driver’s insurance.
“Without Thompsons to assist, I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of the value of compensation I should receive or how to go about building my case.
“The principle of ‘equality before the law’ is impossible if it is beyond the means of the common man.”
This time next year, he and thousands of other victims of car accidents will not be entitled to free legal representation under the Chancellor’s proposed reforms which will see the small claims limit in road accident claims rise from £1,000 to £5,000.
Head of Policy at Thompsons Solicitors, Tom Jones said: “If a well-educated and professional man like Mr. Church, needs and appreciates representation from solicitors at Thompsons, clearly legal representation is vital in all road accident cases, however ‘small’.
“We cannot trust the insurers, who will be paying out compensation to the victims of accidents, to decide how much each claim is worth. The average person will not know the ins and outs of the law, much less when shaken up after they have been in a nasty accident that wasn’t their fault.
“Insurers already hold consumers to ransom – for example, auto-renewal costs and extortionate admin fees – and they now want to take away the right to representation. The government is once again letting the insurers run the show at the expense of genuinely injured people, and we cannot allow them to get away with it.”
Injured on the roads? Help and compensation is close at hand.
If you’ve been injured on the roads in the last three years, our expert road traffic accident solicitors can support you. Whether you were injured as the driver or passenger in a vehicle, or as a pedestrian or cyclist, you may be able to claim for damages.
Unlike other firms, Thompsons only ever acts for the injured person – never for insurance companies. This means we will fight harder to secure the maximum level of compensation for your injuries, and not try to please motor insurance paymasters.
Contact us today for a free, no obligation assessment of whether you have a claim for compensation following a road accident.
For further information, visit our How to Make A Compensation Claim page.