A government consultation on reforming the personal injury claims process will be damaging to the trade unions’ ability to fund personal injury services, Thompsons Solicitors has warned.

While there are welcome moves within the paper, such as the commitment not to increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims, it appears to reflect intensive lobbying by the insurance industry.

The new claims procedures would operate for all cases below £25,000. This would be the new fast track limit and while in itself is unobjectionable it is the changes that are proposed to go with it that offer the real risk for claimants and trade unions.

These include that claimants will be required to put forward a valuation of their case and if that valuation is too high, and a lower amount is awarded by a court, they will receive no costs.

The consequence of this will be that claimant lawyers will be conservative in their valuations of cases and that this will drive down damages levels.

And while the decision on small claims demonstrates that the government has listened to the trade unions, the proposal that no insurance premium is recoverable except where court proceedings are required (a minority of cases) and even then only in cases where liability is not admitted and the value of the claim is below £2,500, is effectively a small claims limit of £2,500 by the back door.

For health and safety reps with an interest in rehabilitation, the reference in the consultation paper to rehabilitation being “provided as early as possible, usually before a claim is made”, without cross reference to the work going on to try and deal with a process for rehabilitation, will be worrying.

Neither is there any attempt to deal with the real problem at the heart of the issues around rehabilitation of who will pay for it and whether if a claimant, however legitimately, refuses to undergo rehabilitation their claim will be prejudiced in any way.

The consultation can be downloaded at: www.dca.gov.uk/consult/case-track-limits/