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The Law Society's Fast and Fair small claims proposals launched today would improve the claims system for thousands of victims who suffer injury because of someone else's negligence to provide simple, quicker and cheaper justice.

Fast and Fair offers a better way forward than an increase to the small claims limit which the Government is expected to consult on later in the year.

The current small claims limit prevents people with personal injury cases worth less than £1,000 in damages claiming back their legal costs from the losing side. Plans to raise this limit to £2,500 would leave thousands of victims to take on insurers alone and navigate a complicated legal process without any legal help.

Desmond Hudson, Law Society Chief Executive, today told the Law Society Conference, Supporting Solicitors, that increasing efficiency should not interfere with people's right to help from a solicitor:

"An increase to the small claims limit would leave most victims at the mercy of big insurers whose directors must be popping champagne corks at the prospect. A MORI survey found that just one in three people would have the confidence to bring a claim without legal advice. Inevitably, people suffering broken bones, severed fingers and scarring would be left without the compensation they deserve.

"We need a fast and fair system that allows people to get advice whilst keeping costs down. There should be a simple process with strict time limits, incentives for efficient handling and for both sides to settle a reasonable claim early on. Our system involves early notification to the insurer enabling them to provide treatment to an injured party and to pay out quickly on straightforward claims before costs spiral.

"It is nonsense to suggest that we are in the grip of a US style compensation culture. In fact, the number of personal injury claims over the last five years has dropped."

Last year there were 674,422 personal injury claims in England and Wales. Approximately, two thirds of them were under £2,500 in value.

In the past five years there has been approximately a five per cent fall in the number of personal injury claims.

A MORI poll conducted by APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) found that two thirds of people who suffer injury through someone else's negligence would not pursue it through the small claims court without an independent solicitor helping them.

Research conducted by UNISON in 2005 with their members about their recent claims found that 63% would not have proceeded with their case or felt confident going before a judge without legal representation and 66% believed they would not have been dealt with fairly without the help of a lawyer.
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