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2016 looks set to be a big year for many in the industry. Changes in legislation are set to shake things up and may impact the public at large.

Jefferies Solicitors anticipates a rise in people claiming for loss of value on their Volkswagen vehicles following the emissions scandal, among other types of claims. The proposed rise by the government to the small claims limit looks also set to dramatically alter how people claim in the future.

Here, managing director Michael Jefferies talks through some of the changes, and what to expect in the coming year.

How will the VW emissions scandal affect me?

Volkswagen was in the news in September when over 1.1 million cars were identified as being sold with the wrong software in diesel engines, designed to cheat emissions tests. The device led people to think that some engines were more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

At this stage, it isn’t clear whether VW owners can claim compensation for vehicles affected by the emissions scandal. However, legal action has already started in the US so it’s one to watch out for in 2016 on this side of the pond.

How does the proposed raise of the small claims limit affect me?

In November, the chancellor, George Osborne, pledged to raise the small claims limit for personal injury claims to £5,000, as well as a proposed scrap of compensation for ‘minor’ whiplash claims.

This is the biggest change to the industry in recent years as it means people with potentially serious injuries could be reluctant to claim compensation, thinking they are ‘too minor’.

To attract an award of £5,000.00 plus, an individual would normally have to have experienced medical symptoms for well over two years – most people would not define this as ‘minor’. In contrast to the system that has been in place for many years, most people will also be unaware that the government plans to remove access to lawyers to fight these sorts of cases. This would mean that individuals have to navigate the Court process themselves, including obtaining and paying for medical reports.

It could have huge implications and the government needs to think carefully before passing this legislation. Often there are serious underlying problems to a case that are not always clear from the outset.

In addition, personal injury claims sometimes appear to be uncomplicated but further on down the line, significant injuries are uncovered – ‘small’ claims often develop into claims exceeding the £5,000 mark. For the majority of personal injury claims, this change will mean that clients will not have any access to legal representation and will be left to fight with the insurance company and their lawyers themselves. This will be an entirely unequal fight, as the insurance company will still employ lawyers to defend claims that will be brought by individuals.

What can we do about this?

The message to take away is to contact a reputable solicitors’ firm if you are unsure whether you can claim or not. Experts in the area can then determine if you are entitled to claim compensation now. If legislation changes, this will vary, so it’s one to watch carefully.

You can also write to your local MP if you wish to complain about the way access to Justice is being eroded.

Check out our website for more news on issues that may affect you. Or call us on 0333 323 1422.

Published on 20th January 2016.

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