New rules came into force on 31st May with the supposed aim of tackling a ‘whiplash’ culture, making it much more difficult for many road traffic accident (RTA) victims to get free legal support, but POA members and their families will continue to be able to access legal help.

The changes, coming out of the Civil Liability Act 2018, sees the small claims limit for RTAs increase by 500 per cent from £1,000 to £5,000. The only exceptions are for ‘vulnerable road users’ - pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, children and protected parties.

The Government and insurers have used an alleged culture of fraudulent and unnecessary motor claims to justify the changes; we doubt they will do anything to combat fraud, but they are due to save insurers £1.3 billion a year. The Government says that it expects the insurers to pass those savings on to policy holders in the form of premium reductions, but it has not made that a legal requirement, will not even be looking at savings until 2024 and has no clear sanction if the savings are never passed on at all.

What are small claims?

Since 1999, a claim valued above £1,000 has seen any legal fees for a lawyer being paid by the person responsible for the injury; a principle known as the ‘polluter pays’.

By increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 for anyone injured in a road accident who is not a ‘vulnerable road user’, tens of thousands of people injured through no fault of their own in an RTA will have to pay legal fees if they want a lawyer to help them, or face fighting an insurance company on their own in their own time. And first, they will have to get their heads round a 64-page guide to the newly established Official Injury Claim portal.

The changes will severely restrict access to justice for at least 80 per cent of road accident victims and clog up courts that are already dealing with a COVID-related backlog.

How the POA is helping you

We have campaigned alongside the union’s lawyers Thompsons Solicitors against these changes and while there have been concessions and considerable delay, now the changes are in we are determined that any POA member – or a member of their family – injured on the roads will have legal cover provided through the union. Rather than being left on your own to fight the insurers, you will have trusted union lawyers to help you through the legal process.

Members will also continue to receive comprehensive legal cover for all accidents at work, personal injuries, serious injuries, industrial diseases (including asbestos-related diseases) and more, while family members benefit from free personal injury representation for non-work related accidents or injuries. For more information, visit the POA hub on Thompsons’ website.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.