The NUJ's legal service has won nearly £6,000 in damages for a member injured in a car crash, who was originally offered just £50 by the insurers.

Geoff O'Connell, a retired PR from the North East, had tried to handle the claim against the insurer of the other car's driver himself. But when the insurers refused to increase the offer above £200 he turned to the NUJ for assistance.

He had been a passenger in the back seat of a car which was hit on his side at a T-junction by a white van.

Really impressed with the service

Geoff collapsed with crushing chest pains after he had helped the other passengers out of the car. He was rushed to hospital, where fortunately his symptoms were diagnosed as a panic attack and not a heart attack. But the impact of the crash left him traumatised and terrified to drive for several months. He still suffers "slow motion flashbacks" of the crash.

"I can't praise the NUJ's legal service and the union lawyers Thompsons enough", Geoff said. "I was really impressed with the service. My solicitor Fiona Belgian was excellent and fought really hard for me. We had an offer just before the court date of £4,000, but she advised against accepting and eventually got me £5,890 at court. My only regret is that I missed the trial because I was hovering on the national transplant list awaiting a liver transplant."

The case is an example of how union members with claims estimated to be worth below £5,000 will lose out if the government goes ahead with a proposal to increase the small claims limit on PI claims from £1,000 to £5,000.

Another passenger suffered a whiplash injury

Because costs are not recoverable in small claims, claimants are unlikely to be able to get legal representation, and so would have to deal with the defendant's insurer themselves.

A passenger in the front seat of the car who still suffers the pain of her whiplash injury settled her claim without a lawyer for just £2,000.

"With this proposed change in the law, I'd have just been whisked out of a small claims court with £400", Geoff said. "The unions must oppose the government on this, or thousands of members will lose out."