Legal Aid In April 2013 the Government will implement a bundle of reforms to the Civil Litigation system through Part 2 of the, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. It is thought that these changes will completely change the way in which personal injury claims are dealt with.
Whilst the reforms include some much needed changes, such as the ban on paying referral fees for personal injury cases, on the whole it is considered that the changes will restrict access to justice for the average person and will largely benefit the insurance industry.
There are several changes which are likely to have a significant impact on people injured as a result of an accident at work, car accident or accident in a public place. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, solicitors acting on behalf of injured victims will have the legal costs they can claim from the insurers of the wrongdoer (Defendant) restricted. This will mean that they are limited in the amount of work they can do to ensure that they get the right result for their clients. At the same time, the insurance company acting for the Defendant won’t have any limitations and will be able to spend as much money as they wish. This will obviously create an uneven playing field, putting the injured victim at a distinct disadvantage.
Another change relates to the way in which cases will be funded. Personal injury claims are normally conducted on a “no win no fee” basis. Basically, this means that if you lose you don’t have to pay anything and your solicitor will not be paid for the work they have done, and if you win, the Defendant will pay your legal costs. Solicitors are also able to recover an uplift on their fees to cover the risk that they won’t be paid in unsuccessful cases. This was introduced at the same time as legal aid was removed for personal injury claims to ensure that injured victims still had access to legal representation if they were wrongfully injured and it enabled solicitors to offer this access to justice. However, from April 2013, solicitors will no longer be able to recover this uplift from the Defendant and it will instead be paid from the injured parties’ compensation.
The problem with this, is that compensation is carefully calculated to compensate for losses and expenses from which the injured person has suffered, such as a loss of earnings; and also to compensate for any ongoing expenses they may have, for example paying for help at home which is required due to the injury. There is no windfall about it, and under the new system up to 25% of the compensation, which has been assessed down to the last penny, will have to be used to pay the uplift. However, if the solicitors did not take this uplift, there would be a serious impact on the number of cases in which they agree to act as they would only act in cases with a very high chance of success. This would result in a lot of people being unable to find a solicitor who will represent them, so it looks likely that there will be end to 100% compensation to try and keep some access to justice.
The insurance industry has managed to convince the Government that making these changes will ultimately help the average householder by reducing their insurance premiums. However, they made similar promises in the past when a new fixed fee regime was introduced for road traffic claims to no avail. If anything the premiums have just continued to rocket making the insurance companies’ profits into the billions. These changes will quite simply see insurance companies save millions of pounds directly from the pockets of the injured person.
Contact Harris Fowler now to start your claim for compensation before these changes are enforced. Free and friendly legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit www.harrisfowler.co.uk
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