SPECIALIST lawyers have issued a new warning that courts will buckle under a flood of personal injury cases because of an overhaul of the system.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has backed the Law Society Council of Scotland in raising concerns over the Scottish Government plans that would make it easier and cheaper to make some claims.

APIL said a combination of court closures and the Holyrood Government plans to move thousands of cases from the Court of Session will cause delays and pressure in the sheriff courts.

It said to avoid that, significant improvement and investment in court staff, technology and procedures are needed.

The warning came in APIL's response to the Government's consultation on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which has just closed.

APIL also recommended the creation of two specialist personal injury courts rather than the single specialist court proposed by the Government, to ease the burden.

One effect of the plans would be to slash the legal costs of bringing a claim by two-thirds, with the bill for a three-day hearing likely to fall from around £30,000 to about £10,000.

Edinburgh's Court of Session can currently hear civil cases where the sum sued for is £5000 or more, but under the plans only cases valued at more than £150,000 will go to that court.

The Law Society supports an increase in the threshold for Court of Session cases, but says it should be £50,000.

APIL's Scottish representative, Gordon Dalyell, said the planned changes are "an extremely ambitious programme of reform for the civil courts in Scotland, which will mean that, in future, almost all personal injury cases will have to go through the sheriff courts rather than the Court of Session".

He added: "The difficulty is that the Court of Session really has become a centre of excellence, running personal injury cases efficiently and cost-effectively, and injured people deserve the same level of service from the sheriff courts and from the new specialist court.

"If the new system is going to work, it will need an overhaul in its procedures, it will need a review of staffing, from specialist sheriffs to clerks and administrative staff, and it will need an overhaul in its technology to ensure it can cope with the huge influx of cases expected."

APIL, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns on injury laws, has also raised concerns about the prospect of injured people being dealt with under a new form of simplified procedure for cases valued under £5000.

Mr Dalyell said: "Personal injury cases can often be very complex, which is why the Government has already removed them from the small claims court.

"It would make no sense to remove these cases from that simplified procedure only to force them into another."

The Scottish Court Service has already outlined plans to close 10 sheriff courts in a £4 million-a-year cost-cutting programme.