The reforms, first proposed by then-Chancellor George Osborne in November 2015, are aimed at targeting what the government argue is an epidemic of whiplash claims, but would have meant significantly reduced access to justice for thousands of cyclists injured in road traffic collisions.
The proposed increase in the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 mean that no legal costs will be recoverable from the insurer of a negligent driver where injuries are worth £5,000 or less.
Many significant injuries would potentially fall within this bracket including fractured collarbones and soft tissue injuries where symptoms are present for as much as 2 years.
It is estimated that in the region of 70% of the claims brought by Leigh Day on behalf of injured cyclists would be impacted by these proposals, leaving injured individuals to pursue their claims directly against insurance companies and their legal teams.
After a long campaign by a number of organisations representing cyclists and other vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, motorcyclists and horse riders, the Lord Chancellor announced yesterday that vulnerable road users are to be excluded from the reforms.
Andrew Bradley, head of the cycling team at Leigh Day, has welcomed the government’s announcement: “An injury that the government seem to consider minor can have a real impact on the quality of life of a keen cyclist. For many of our clients, even a few days off their bike can be frustrating and can affect their work and social life. More serious injuries can keep cyclists off their bike for weeks or months. In many cases carefully-planned training regimes are disrupted and seasons ruined. Legal support in these situations is vital to ensure proper compensation is recovered.
“In addition we often see insurers used to dealing with car v car claims struggling to understand the rules of the road as they relate to cyclists and trying to deny responsibility on the part of their insured. The prospect of insurers dealing fairly with unrepresented cyclists is remote.
“It was a clear injustice to include cyclists within these reforms when there is no evidence of cyclists suffering from the dubious whiplash claims the legislation claims to be targeting. We are therefore delighted that the government has seen sense on this issue and look forward to seeing the detail of the new proposals.”