80 per cent of people in the UK say they are either confused by or unaware of changes to the law which could leave thousands of injured people without representation.
According to a new study, only one in five are aware of a change in the ‘small claims limit’ – the point at which those who suffer injuries such as broken bones, muscle damage and scarring are able to recoup their legal costs.
The changes, which could come into force as soon as October this year, were pushed through by the government in February as part of a bundle of legislation on prisons and courts. Under the new legislation, anyone with an injury deemed to be worth less than £2,000 – including those who are injured at work – could be unable to access legal representation.
This could mean victims of accidents are forced to represent themselves in court, against trained legal experts.
The changes were subject to a public consultation in 2016, but according the figures – released by the national law firm Stephensons – the consultation has failed to raise awareness among the general public. Alarmingly, awareness is revealed to be at its lowest among more vulnerable groups – 18-24 year-olds and over 65’s.
According to Kate Sweeney, a solicitor and partner at Stephensons, the confusion could have dangerous consequences for people across the UK.
Kate said: “Charities, MP’s and legal professionals alike are all deeply concerned about the effect this change will have on those who suffer severe or life-changing injuries.
“It will mean that people will have to make difficult choices. Do they employ the services of a legal expert, greatly increasing their chances of success but at a significant personal cost? Or, do they take the enormous risk of proceeding without a solicitor in the hope they can represent themselves?
“For the inexperienced, facing a court case alone is a daunting and difficult task. The legal process for personal injury is complicated and requires expert knowledge of each of the stages involved. Many people would be forced to take on highly trained and skilled opponents on their own”.