General Secretary

February 2017

PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS

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CONSULTATION ON ARRANGEMENTS CONCERNING PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS IN ENGLAND AND WALES. REFORMING THE SOFT TISSUE INJURY (‘WHIPLASH’) CLAIMS PROCESS.

Thompsons, the Union’s retained solicitors, are providing a response on behalf of the POA and many other unions to the Government’s consultation questionnaire. These changes, if introduced, will have significant implications for POA members, their families, friends and all workers.

The long-term ramifications of these proposed changes will not be known for some time, but it is clear that your health and safety will be placed at further risk, as employers cut costs and take more risks, in the knowledge that access to justice and compensation will be highly unlikely.

These proposals have been put forward to placate the insurance companies under the guise that it will save the public money with lower premiums for car insurance.

This is simply not the case and linking personal injuries to road traffic accidents is ludicrous.

It is clear that the Government does not define what a ‘soft tissue injury’ is and wrongly lumps all such injuries together, whether they are ‘whiplash’ injuries or otherwise.

The Government shows its misunderstanding of the issues by describing injuries as ‘significant’ while simultaneously trying to treat them as ‘minor’ injuries. The Government unfairly implies that medical professionals cannot be trusted to diagnose injuries accurately.

The Government is wrong to base the severity of an injury purely on its duration and should appreciate the complexity of such injuries.

Compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity should not be removed for so-called ‘minor’ claims. Independent experts − judges − currently set the level of compensation and this system should be retained, rather than enable politically-motivated ministers to dictate compensation levels.

Small claims

The small claims track limit should not be raised at all. Nor should the limit be raised for all personal injury cases, including employers’ liability cases. This cannot be justified and even the consultation paper itself objectively fails to do so. Senior and influential members of the judiciary have consistently recommended that there is no case to include all personal injury cases into the small claims track.

Increasing the small claims limit would increase the number of Litigants in Person. As well as implications for the smooth running of the justice system, this would impair access to justice and further exacerbate the already highly asymmetric relationship between claimant and insurer backed defendant.

We need your support

On behalf of the NEC, I sent out a POA Circular in November 2016, advising members of these proposals and seeking your support in contacting MPs as part of the campaign to ensure workers receive compensation when injured at work. This work will continue throughout 2017. The response to the Government’s consultation questionnaire will be finalised and submitted by Thompsons.

If you have been injured at work and received compensation of less than £5,000, how would you feel, if under these proposals, you received no compensation?

Finally, 2017 will be a difficult and challenging time for the POA, Unity is Strength and working together will be the key to our success.

Steve Gillan
General Secretary

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