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Grayling confirms that small claims limit for PI could rise above £5,000

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Grayling: people should have access to a proper legal process

Justice secretary Chris Grayling yesterday confirmed that an increase in the small claims limit for personal injury (PI) claims to more than £5,000 is on the table.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has attacked him for what it described as a “petulant side-swipe at injured people”.

During justice questions in the House of Commons, Labour MP David Crausby asked whether the secretary of state was satisfied that raising the limit from £1,000 to £5,000 – which is currently the subject of consultation – “will ensure that accident victims continue to find adequate independent local advice and access to justice”.

Mr Grayling replied: “I think the new plans will do that. Indeed, I think there is a case for saying that the small claims court limit of £5,000 is too low. I am keen for people to have access to a proper legal process, but the benefit of the small claims court is, in part, arbitration. The plans make the process simpler and cleaner for people who have been through a difficult time.”

Last week an unsourced story in the Daily Telegraph [2] suggested that ministers were considering raising the limit to £15,000 in response to the judicial review of the proposal portal fee cut [3] issued by APIL and the Motor Accident Solicitors Society.

APIL president Karl Tonks attacked Mr Grayling’s comments. He said: “Any arbitrary increase in the small claims court limit for personal injury would just force injured people into a system which is fit only for settling disputes about faulty goods and services, not for dealing with complex matters of law.

“I find it hard to believe that a responsible government would react in such an irrational and indiscriminate way to a legitimate legal challenge, as suggested in press reports. A petulant side-swipe at injured people as punishment for an attempt to exercise the democratic right to scrutinise the government’s competence and motives would be a very sinister precedent indeed.”

Mr Grayling’s reply also appeared to rule out the ‘do nothing’ option present to consultees in the whiplash consultation. The consultation runs until 8 March and does not indicate a strong preference. The most it said was that “many small value whiplash claims are relatively straightforward and that the small claims track might be a more suitable venue in which to determine them than the fast-track”.

More generally Mr Grayling warned that, as a result of new Cabinet Office guidance, the Ministry of Justice will no longer automatically run 12-week written consultations.

He told MPs: “I want to be clear that although the government still want to hear the views of stakeholders and the public on many matters, they should no longer expect a 12-week consultation, even where that has been the practice in the past.

“Instead, in line with the new Cabinet Office principles, we will take a fresh look across all areas at whether, how and for how long we should consult, according to what is appropriate and proportionate in each case.”