The two biggest membership organisations for cyclists in the UK - British Cycling and Cycling UK - have come to wildly differing conclusions on what the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) initial response to the public consultation on proposed changes to personal injury law will mean for cyclists.
British Cycling, the body largely responsible for the competitive side of cycling in the UK, interprets the MoJ response in a cautiously positive light. But Cycling UK – the organisation that traditionally campaigns and lobbies for better conditions for cyclists – says that its contacts with MoJ officials suggest the proposed limit changes do for the time being at least still apply to cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
British Cycling's interpretation of the Ministry of Justice announcement is that an increase to the small claims limit for personal injury claims - which are being made to reform the soft tissue injury, or whiplash, claims process - from £1,000 to £5,000 would not apply to cyclists.
In British Cycling's view the proposed across-the-board £5,000 limit for small claims will instead only apply to injury claims involving occupants of motor vehicles. Its interpretation is that for all other traffic-related personal injury claims, including injuries sustained on a bicycle, the new limit will be £2,000.
The governing body for UK cycle sport had previously raised concerns over the access cyclists would have to legal representation in the small claims court, releasing a statement in January that proposed changes to the law would prevent 70 per cent of cyclists injured in road traffic collisions from accessing legal aid. It also claimed that the proposed changes had not taken cyclists into consideration at all.
>Read more: Government reported to have dropped "draconian" personal injury claim changes
But in a statement published last week following the government's publication of its initial response to a consultation on the planned reforms, it said:
British Cycling is pleased that the government has not extended the £5,000 limit across the board and has quite rightly excluded vulnerable road users such as cyclists from the full force of the reforms.
However, there are concerns that once these changes are implemented it will pave the way for the government to increase the £5,000 small claims limit to all personal injury claims. British Cycling will be watching developments closely in this regard.
The organisation's statement in January was far from the only dissenting voice aimed at the Ministry of Justice with regards to these changes.
Campaign groups and charities such as Cycling UK, RoadPeace, and Living Streets launched a Road Victims are Real Victims campaign to highlight how much of an impact these changes would have on cycling injury compensation claims.
British Cycling's cautious optimism may be premature according to Cycling UK, which since our original story has been in touch with the MoJ to clarify its response to the public consultation on the changes.
According to Cycling, UK MoJ officials again confirmed that the current proposals for an increase to a £5,000 limit applies to all road traffic personal injury claims. This increase will still affect motorists, cyclists and pedestrians and that as things stand it is incorrect to suggest that somehow vulnerable road users are excluded at this stage.
That doesn't mean that this will be the Ministry of Justice's final position when it comes to the compensation limit and vulnerable road users - but Cycling UK stress that the battle isn't done or won yet.
Speaking to road.cc, Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer said:
“Cycling UK is disappointed with the Government’s initial consultation response, although it did acknowledge the concerns of the large number of cyclists who responded to the consultation, as a consequence of our Road Victims are Real Victims campaign.
“Cycling UK has been invited to meet with Justice Officials next week to discuss the impact changes to the small claims limit could have on Vulnerable Road Users. We will be pushing for the exclusion of VRUs from the changes, as their claims are typically complex and often contested, therefore requiring legal assistance.”
Close to 6,000 people wrote to Justice Secretary Liz Truss to voice their concerns over the proposed changes in January - 5,998 of those responses were from people responding to the Road Victims are Real Victims campaign says Cycling UK - a claim seemingly borne out by the fact that the Ministry of Justice said it received 5995 identical responses from cyclists.
>Read more: 6,000 say no to whiplash compensation law changes
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