Chaos theory dictates that the flap of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the world could lead to a hurricane on the other. Sometimes, small insignificant events can have major impact.
The media and the Government would have us believe that all small personal injury claims are fraudulent – whether it is slips and trips in supermarkets, or whiplash from car crashes. There is a growing tendency to try to make such claims just go away – whether it is through hardnosed legal reform making cases unaffordable to run, or pushing injured people towards running their own cases in the small claims court. These claims seem unimportant to the many who have never suffered. But remember, sometimes things that seem unimportant can have a massive, unseen impact – the proper treatment of an injured person, for example.
At present, if you suffer a more minor injury due to the fault of another (such as whiplash) you are properly looked after. You are entitled to expert advice from a solicitor (for injuries related to road accidents that advice will be at a reasonable, fixed cost funded by the wrongdoer). Your condition should be properly assessed by a medical expert. You may be recommended for rehabilitation to improve your recovery. You will recover any loss of earnings if you are unable to work for a while (even minor injuries can be debilitating for a period). You will also be compensated for your injury by the wrongdoer. We have a culture of care.
Moving forwards, policy changes currently under discussion by the Government could generate a culture of carelessness. The thousands of people who suffer minor injuries may not be entitled to expert advice and a solicitor to run their claims. They will be expected to run the claim themselves through the small claims court. Personal Injury claims are complex – they will have to accumulate medical notes, get expert reports together, and argue their claim against an insurer. This will undoubtedly be overwhelming for many people, and is likely to deter many genuinely injured people from claiming. Such individuals may be self employed manual workers, for whom a minor injury can seriously affect their ability to earn money. They can quickly end up in debt. Demotivation and stress are proven to impact recovery. As a consequence, they are far more likely to make an incomplete recovery, or to develop long term impairment. This will affect their long term ability to work and could lead to the need for increased sick pay and unemployment benefit.
Others may grit their teeth and choose to pursue their claims. Victims have a strong sense of right and wrong and many will endeavour to pursue their rights. At present traffic-related cases are dealt with quietly and efficiently within an electronic portal. Can society really afford to push potentially hundreds of thousands of extra cases through its already over-populated court system?This will provide enterprise opportunities for organisations prepared to represent claimants for a cut of their damages. In summary – overcrowded courts; unrepresented unprepared claimants running their own cases; or represented injured people losing money from their damages. This seems like an expensive, backwards leap.
So beware these small, seemingly unimportant changes. It’s chaos in the making.