The proposed motor legal reforms: our view

30th April 2021
Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown

The long-awaited motor reforms will come into force on 31 May. The reforms intend to simplify the method of pursuing a personal injury claim for those injured parties whose compensation for their injuries is less than £5,000 (or £10,000 in total where there are financial losses claimed in addition to the compensation for the injury).

These reforms are being implemented through a combination of changes to legislation and the launch of a dedicated claims portal, which must be used for making any claim falling within the scope of the reforms. The intention of the reforms is that an injured party with a claim for injury compensation worth less than £5,000 (or £10,000 in total) will no longer require legal assistance.

Whilst the reforms do not specifically prohibit an injured party seeking assistance from a legal professional, the impact of the reforms is such that legal fees will no longer be recoverable for these types of claims. We believe that this will see many injured claimants, who do not have the benefit of a legal expenses policy, finding it difficult to obtain legal representation to pursue their claim.

Some may choose to fund their own legal support through a deduction from their compensation or to become litigants in person using the new consumer portal. And whilst this will be an effective route for some, it will prove challenging for many more complicated lower value claims and could leave many, particularly more vulnerable customers, without access to justice.

Under the new rules, the sorts of activities that unrepresented claimants may need to undertake include:

  • Obtaining and presenting evidence to show the other side or the court that the other party was at fault for their accident; such as preparing witness evidence, obtaining police reports and securing engineering evidence;
  • Reviewing medical evidence and then valuing their injuries using legal guidelines and case law;
  • Obtaining evidence in support of a loss of earnings claim and valuing that claim by reviewing accounts and payslips in conjunction with medical evidence;
  • Preparing a case for a court hearing;
  • Attending court on a number of occasions to represent themselves to resolve liability decisions, recover interim payments and for the court to assess the value of the claim; potentially against the legal representatives of the other party.

The activities can be complicated and those without legal representation are exposed to a significant risk where they do not obtain the compensation to which they are entitled.They will also be required to invest significant time and effort in the claims process where historically a legal representative would have done this work for them.

Unfortunately, there has been limited wider public awareness of the changes being made and many potential claimants will face the new regime with little understanding of how it works and limited access to support. What is certain is that before the event motor legal expenses insurance is now more important than ever as it ensures that all claimants can have free and unlimited access to qualified legal professionals.

Samantha Brown is Head of Personal Injury at DAS Law.

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