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No small matter

Colin Ettinger warns that increasing the small claims limit is a serious threat to access to justice

31 March 2006

The current proposals to increase the financial limit of small claims for personal injuries represent one of the most serious threats to access to justice for a long time. A huge number of potential claimants stand to lose access to lawyers as they will no longer have the right to recover legal costs.

Background

The small claims procedure was first introduced in 1973. It was last reviewed in 1999. The general limit was raised to £5,000. With regards to personal injury, after review, it was left at £1,000. That is, the limit is set at £1,000 in respect of the award for personal injury alone. The total claim may, in fact, be significantly more. The Better Regulation Task Force in its 2004 report, “Better Routes to Redress”, recommended that research be carried out into the impact of the small claims limit being increased to £5,000. This work is pending and will be followed by a consultation, which has yet to be carried out.

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