It is hard to believe that 2010 is now drawing to a close. As our readers will see from our on-line case reports, we have had another busy year achieving a record level of compensation for our clients. We remain a small firm and are committed to helping people who have suffered injuries due to the negligent actions of others.

There is, however, a dark cloud on the horizon. The government’s legal aid proposals are bound to impede on people’s access to justice. They are attempting to save upto £350 million a year on the existing legal aid budget and this will include scrapping legal aid for all but the more serious clinical negligence cases. In addition, they are hoping to make savings in other civil and family cases. We fear that the most vulnerable members of society will no longer be able to obtain public funding to be represented at Court in the future.

We have also had to deal with the double whammy of Lord Young’s review on health and safety and Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations on civil litigation funding and costs which we will be commenting on separately in our newsletter.

What the government seems to overlook is that litigation in itself is an incentive for companies and the NHS to improve health and safety for their employees, their customers and patients. Failure to do so will result in higher insurance premiums and very bad publicity. Almost inevitably, standards will also drop as very few people will be able to sue.

As a firm specialising in personal injury work, we are becoming exhausted by the continual change in how Claimants are expected to fund their cases. For example, in the last 4 years of the labour government, there were more than 30 separate consultation exercises on legal aid alone!

We agree that the current system of litigation and its funding needs to be tweaked to make it fairer on both Claimants and Defendants but on the whole it works well and enables injured people to get advice from specialist lawyers when things go wrong and they should be entitled to recover their legal costs from unsuccessful Defendants without any deductions being made from their agreed damages.

The 6 October 2011 is also an important day for the legal profession as it amounts to what was the equivalent of the “Big Bang” for the City of London back in the 1980s. The Legal Services Act 2007 enables non lawyer organisations from this date to provide legal services to the public and external investment and ownership of law firms (this has been dubbed Tesco law). The legal world, as we know it, will never be the same.


The Lord Young Report in a nutshell

Lord Young made 36 recommendations in his report which was published in November 2010 including:-

  • the introduction of a simplified claims procedure for PI claims similar to that for road traffic accidents under £10,000.00 on a fixed costs basis. Also, he explored the possibility of extending the framework of such a scheme to cover low value medical negligence claims;
  • examine the option of extending the upper limit for road traffic accidents PI claims to £25,000.00;
  • talking to the insurance industry about introducing stand alone before the event legal expenses insurance for both individuals and small businesses;
  • introduce the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs – as outlined below and
  • restrict the operation of referral agencies and PI lawyers and control the volume and type of advertising.

Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals in a nutshell

In a 557 page report, Lord Jackson made the following key recommendations:-

  • damages in personal injury and other civil claims to be increased by 10%;
  • success fees charged by lawyers in “no win, no fee” cases to be capped at 25% and to be paid by the Claimants from their damages;
  • referral fees paid by lawyers to claims companies to be scrapped;
  • the principle of “loser pays” to go – unsuccessful Claimants do not pay Defendants costs if they behave reasonably;
  • loser no longer to pay success fees of other side or their insurance premiums;
  • US style contingency fees to be permitted’
  • fixed fees for accident claims upto £25,000.00;
  • lawyers hourly rates and fixed costs to be reviewed annually.

Travel Insurers denying compensation

At this time of the year, we are often contacted by members of the public who are unhappy with their insurers decision not to pay out on travel insurance policies, where, for example, one of them may have sustained an injury whilst on holiday and incurred substantial medical bills.

We always advise people who call us to check their travel insurance policy documents as this will lay out how to make a claim if someone is injured on holiday.

If their claim is rejected and they believe the decision to be unfair, they should in the first instance, contact their insurer to complain and explain why they disagree with its decision.

All insurers have the a complaints procedure and the Association of British Insurers points out that insurers must comply with the Financial Services Authority rules on handling claims. More information can be found on their FSA website – www.fsa.gov.uk.

If their insurer continues to deny that they have a claim, they then have a right to refer their case to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service who will review their decision. This is free to consumers.

Client Referral Scheme

If a former or an existing client recommends either a friend or a member of their family to our firm for advice about an accident or medical negligence claim and we are able to help them, as a token of our thanks we would give that client a £100.00 worth of vouchers of their choice or alternatively make a donation of this value to their nominated charity.

This newsletter was produced by S J Edney solicitors Telephone: 01793 600721

Also read my blog – click here https://www.accidentspecialistsolicitors.co.uk/news/