The British Cycling Federation has raised concerns about proposed whiplash compensation reforms and the impact they will have on cyclist injury claims.
Last month, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced that a series of reforms were being considered that would “crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent [personal injury] claims”. The proposals are intended to address the perceived compensation culture that is allegedly responsible for inflating car insurance premiums. However, if adopted in their present state, the reforms will affect not only drivers and passengers with whiplash injuries, but all personal injury claims.
One of the most significant proposals is to increase the threshold for “small claims” from £1,000 to £5,000. Legal costs cannot be recovered from the negligent party in “small claims” and several organisations are concerned that the costs of seeking professional legal advice will deter many genuine claimants from taking legal action to recover compensation – or attempt to get a fair settlement from insurance companies without legal assistance.
One such organisation with concerns about their members´ access to justice is the British Cycling Federation. The Federation has produced statistics showing that 70 percent of cyclist injury claims are settled for less than £5,000. It also argues that its members could lose their entitlement to legal support because insurance companies want the government to do something about the volume of whiplash claims they process.
Martin Key, the Campaigns Manager for the British Cycling Federation, said: “This is a disappointing set of proposals, and we felt the need to speak out publicly on behalf of Britain’s cyclists as well as submit our own response to the consultation. “The vast majority of injuries sustained in cycling incidents are valued at under the proposed £5,000 limit, meaning that – under the new proposals – any cyclist involved in an incident would find it very difficult to get legal representation and therefore to be adequately compensated for their injuries.”
The British Cycling Federation is also unhappy that the consultation process for the proposed reforms runs over the Christmas period. It says that the January 6th deadline for responses to the proposals does not allow enough time for the broad number of issues affecting cyclist injury claims to be raised. The Federation will be submitting its response before the deadline, but is asking the Ministry of Justice to re-think both the proposals and the deadline for responses.