Earlier this week, the government finally gave way to pressure with regard to its planned reforms to no win no fee claims for mesothelioma victims. As a result, the planned changes to the recoverability of success fees in no win no fee cases, will be delayed, pending a review into the impact these changes will have on the access justice of those suffering from mesothelioma.
This change of heart appears to be the result of arguments that those suffering from mesothelioma (an industrial disease arising out of exposure to asbestos at work) would not be in a position to bring what referred to as ‘frivolous or fraudulent’ compensation claims, that it was not reasonable for those victims with just months to live to spend time shopping around for the solicitor with the lowest success fee, and therefore it was not reasonable for them to be put in the position of potentially losing up to a quarter of any damages one in order to fund their personal injury solicitors‘ success fee under a no win no fee claim.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, as amended, is now expected to receive Royal assent in the next few weeks and to become law next April.
As a firm, we are absolutely committed to excellence and our personal injury team is no exception to this. As a result, therefore, we are really happy to announce that the head of our personal injury department has just been reappointed to the Clinical Negligence Accreditation Panel run by the Law Society itself.
Denise Broomfield, a specialist medical negligence solicitor, will now be a member of the panel until 2017 – this is a particularly specialist panel – out of more than 100,000 solicitors nationwide, only just over 300 of them are members of this Clinical Negligence [or medical negligence as it is more often known] Accreditation Scheme. According to the Law Society, the panel is recognition of specialist and excellent skills, knowledge and practice in the area of medical negligence compensation claims.
Denise covers a wide variety of medical negligence work – including birth injuries, hip replacement compensation claims, GP errors, surgical mistakes and compensation claims that result from cancer misdiagnosis.
In addition, Denise is also on the equally specialist medical negligence accreditation panel run by AvMA -the nationwide charity, Action Against Medical Accidents. In addition, one of our personal injury solicitors who specialises in accident claims which don’t involve medical negligence, Anthony Pownall, is also a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel.
The government’s obsession with driving down the legal costs of accident compensation claims, regardless of the potential consequences, continues. The latest moves involves a proposal for setting a new rate for the maximum fee for low value road traffic claims that go through what is known as the RTA portal – an online system for the more routine personal injury claims. The cap for legal fees is currently set at £1200 – which was in itself a significant decrease in the rate previous recharged by solicitors. Unbelievably, the justice minister, Jonathan Djangoly, is seriously suggesting that the rate ought to be decreased to just £300. Lawyers are always easy targets – what other industry would be expected to negotiate the possibility of a 75% reduction in income – would they do the same to public sector workers? Of course not.
I have absolutely no problem with the principles of competition, but I think this occasion the government is making major mistake and seemed to be in thrall to the insurance industry. The rationale behind this significant planned intervention into the market, seems to be that insurance premiums are too high. Insurance companies bleat that this is because of the legal costs involved in personal injury claims are simply too high – though if they were more realistic and didn’t fight quite so many understandable accident compensation claims, that would significantly help the issue of costs.
If the government do really reduce the cap on legal fees for the RTA portal to just £300, they will be playing into the hands of the insurance companies. Firms like ours, with top-quality person injury solicitors, will simply refuse to do this level of work.. Fortunately, our reputation enables us to obtain enough good quality work to cut out this lower level – my concern is that the any firms remaining, will only be able to make this kind of injury claim work pay, if at all with the very lowest level of qualified and highly inexperienced fee earner. Insurance companies therefore will have all the advantage – able to employ their own highly qualified lawyers with a limited budget working against inexperienced legal clerks working on a limited timescale. The result – a win for the insurance companies – not the consumer.