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Government set to increase small claims limit due to rise in whiplash cases, but Cycling UK warns it will hit vulnerable road users hardest

Cycling UK is urging bike riders in England and Wales to write to their MPs to ask them to support a motion that seeks to exclude vulnerable road users from reforms of the law regarding personal injury claims.

The government plans to increase the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 to help combat bogus or exaggerated claims for whiplash.

But concerns have been raised that rather than vehicle occupants, it will be vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and motorbikers who will be hit hardest by the proposed changes.

Now, Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West has tabled a motion and is calling on fellow MPs in England & Wales (the reforms do not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland) to support her.

The Labour MP said: “I want to see ministers apply common sense when it comes to law making. Cyclists and other vulnerable road users, including children, should be protected on our roads, not punished by the Government if they are unfortunate enough to have a non-fault accident.

“I hope MPs on all sides will show their support and sign the motion.”

The motion reads:

That this House notes the Government's publication of the Civil Liability Bill; supports Ministers' intention to reduce fraudulent and frivolous claims; expresses concern that vulnerable road users (VRUs), including cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and motorcyclists, will be swept up within the scope of the Bill and the broader personal injury reform package, despite there being no evidence that non-fault road traffic accident injuries suffered by VRUs include whiplash; further notes that almost all whiplash claims are made by drivers or passengers of motor vehicles; believes that VRUs deserve the Government's protection, as opposed to removing their rights to redress for injuries under Tort; acknowledges that under these reforms, VRUs suffering injuries below £5,000 in value will be unable to access a lawyer should they wish to pursue their rights of redress in the Courts; and urges the Government to take a pragmatic approach and remove VRUs from the scope of the reforms to ensure they remain protected on our roads.

Cycling UK has created an online tool that will automatically generate a letter addressed to your MP once you have filled in certain details and which urges them to support the motion.

The charity points out that in personal injury cases involving bike riders, rather than whiplash, “Broken bones and other injuries are the norm, and with 70 percent of cyclists' claims being under £5,000, victims will be out of pocket once the legal wrangles with insurance companies are over, as they will have to foot the bill for their own legal costs. “

It recently issued a joint statement with Fletchers solicitors, which handles around 30 per cent of motorcyclist personal injury claims, calling on the government to clearly distinguish claims by type of road user.

The law firm’s CEO, Ed Fletcher, said: “The Government’s plans to crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims threaten to seriously harm the rights of vulnerable road users.

“While I’m sure we can all agree on the need to wipe out fraudulent claims, the Government also needs to recognise that its current proposals will put vulnerable road users at a substantial disadvantage.

“We are urging all MPs to sign the motion to stand up for the rights of society’s most vulnerable road users and get their voices heard.

“We hope that the Government will give our recommendations serious consideration, and agree that all reforms brought in should be limited to claims made by ‘occupants of a vehicle (excluding motorcycles)’ to defend the rights of bikers, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.