The government plans to introduce reforms regarding personal injury claims, but with a key caveat in place that will potentially unfairly target cyclists and motorcyclists.
Motorcyclists make up only 1% of total traffic in the UK. Yet they account for 20-25% of UK road casualties killed or seriously injured.
The government plans to reform road traffic accident personal injury compensation by the introduction of an increase to the Small Claims limit, from the current figure of £1,000 to a new limit of £5,000.
Generally speaking, the costs of legal advice are not recoverable in the Small Claims Court, even if you win, so legal advice or representation by a lawyer is not financially viable.
This increase, likely to be introduced in April 2019, is largely aimed at clamping down on drivers and passengers in cars who suffer so-called ‘whiplash’ injuries. The government takes the view that they are being overcompensated and are driving up car insurance premiums.
However, motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists and even horse riders, will be unfairly caught by these changes.
There is no evidence that motorcyclists exaggerate their injuries or suffer whiplash.
In fact, because motorcyclists feature so largely in the KSI statistics, there is a very strong case to say that they should be provided with greater protection from the law, rather than less.
With this in mind, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Catherine West, has tabled a Parliamentary motion seeking to exclude pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders from these measures.
The motion reads:
“[This House] acknowledges that under these reforms, VRUs (vulnerable road users) suffering injuries below £5,000 in value will be unable to access a lawyer should they wish to pursue their rights of redress in the courts; and urges the government to take a pragmatic approach and remove VRUs from the scope of the reforms to ensure they remain protected on our roads.”
Andrew Twambley of Access to Justice adds;
“As well as MPs, I would hope the insurance industry will agree there is merit in ensuring pedestrians, cyclists, and other VRUs will retain the legal protection and access to justice they receive under the current arrangements.”
The insurance industry is not known for being altruistic, so it seems unlikely that they will come to the aid of motorcyclists and other VRUs without some form of intervention.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and other interested organisations are therefore trying to bring some common sense to the debate, and are encouraging the government to take VRUs out of the picture.
There is very little public awareness of the impact these changes will have on access to justice. This is hardly surprising because, like so many things in life, you don’t know about it until it happens to you!
Motorcyclists frequently get a bad press as they are often associated with anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Many are nevertheless the victims of non-fault accidents. A motorcycle may be the only means of transport available, so getting fair compensation and back on the road as soon as possible, should be the priority. This can only happen with the benefit of independent legal advice from a personal injury lawyer.
Let’s hope the government see sense and amends the legislation before it’s too late for motorcyclists.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and would like to receive some impartial legal advice, please contact our Personal Injury Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist and can offer free initial advice. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.
This article was written by Stephen Green, Personal Injury Partner at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of April 2018.