A Unite member who suffered whiplash when another vehicle drove into the back of him has received just over £4,000 in damages as result of legal support. He has called for the government to scrap proposals that would leave nearly a million people injured like him without the right to free, independent legal advice.
Paul Pearce was waiting in his car at a pedestrian crossing on High Street in Royal Wootton Bassett when another car accelerated into the back of him, causing his car to shunt forward and Paul to suffer a whiplash to his neck, shoulder and lower back.
The 54-year-old, who works as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver, visited hospital later that day where it was found that he had pulled muscles in his neck and back. His injuries meant that he had to have six weeks off work and he still requires physiotherapy more than a year after the accident happened.
Paul contacted his union, Unite, to look into a claim for compensation. Through Unite Legal Services, he was awarded £4,062.25 plus additional settlements for credit hire charges and physiotherapy.
Paul had free independent legal advice to help him get full compensation, yet government proposals to increase the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 would see people injured like him either having to take on insurers' lawyers themselves or pay out of their compensation for legal support.
He said: “I still find it difficult playing golf, which has been a hobby of mine for years, and general housework became a lot more difficult in the months after I suffered the injury.
“The idea that whiplash isn’t a real injury is a joke. If that’s the case why did the insurers for the other driver pay compensation to me? They clearly accepted I wasn’t swinging the lead which they know, and I know, I wasn’t.
“If Unite Legal Services had not been there to help me I don’t know what I would have done - taking on insurers and their lawyers on my own would have been a nightmare.”
Stuart Davies, South West regional legal officer at Unite the Union, said: “To dismiss Paul’s injury as part of a ‘compensation culture’ is not only an insult to him, but to anyone who has suffered like him.
“Thankfully, Paul’s union membership meant that he was able to receive full compensation with no deductions, which is right considering this accident wasn’t his fault at all and had a big impact on his work and personal life. The government siding with the insurers to get them even more money and taking away injured people’s rights will have a huge impact on workers across the UK.”