Only a fifth of consumers would look to instruct lawyers to take on a sub-£5,000 personal injury case if the small claims limit goes up to that level, an opinion poll commissioned by lobbying group Access2Justice (A2J) has found.
The survey of 2,041 UK adults, conducted by MAGNAFI, also found that 58% thought the increase unfair, compared to 20% thought the opposite; 22% didn’t know.
Asked what they would do if they had claim worth less than £5,000 under the government’s proposed new regime – which they were told could mean they pay up to 50% of their damages to cover their legal costs – just 19% said they would pursue it using a lawyer.
A quarter said they would try and run the case themselves – with older people and those in higher social groups more likely to say so – while 26% would not bother. Some 30% did not know what they would do.
When it came to the fairness of the change, MAGNAFI found men and ABC1s were most likely to see the proposals as in any way fair.
The poll was commissioned by InjuryLawyers4U, whose founder Andrew Twambley is a director of A2J . He said: “The public aren’t fooled, even if ministers are. Over-55s in particular are the loudest critics of the plans, with 45% calling them very unfair, and 22% unfair. But every single age group, regardless of gender or income bracket, said the plans were unfair…
“[The findings] shows that access to justice – a basic British right – would be slashed for 60 million people. The only winners would be insurers and their shareholders.”
Meanwhile, the incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) will next week call upon PI lawyers to help win over “hearts and minds” in the battle against the government’s reform programme.
“We stand on the verge of the greatest of challenges that we and, more importantly, innocent injured people have faced to their rights and entitlements for many a long day,” Neil Sugarman, of GLP Solicitors in Bury, will tell delegates at APIL’s annual conference in Birmingham next week.
“The theme of this conference is ‘Winning hearts and minds’ and that is precisely what we have to do. Help us to show the public, MPs, press, media, even the judiciary that we really do fulfil a genuine holistic function.
“It is time to fight back and not let the undoubted power of the insurance industry or a government concerned purely with the economy, triumph over the rights of injured people, rights which have been around for hundreds of years.
“You must sit in your offices or at home, seething and frustrated. You might be thinking and hoping that APIL and other claimant-based organisations will do what they can and, of course, they will. But we must all try to do more and do it now”.