I was simply astonished to read the Article entitled ‘Hurt at work? Sue! (But you’ll get a £74,000.00 Bill)’ in the above edition of the Metro.

The content of the Article could not be further from the truth and I would like to take the opportunity to rebut many of the points which have been made.

Firstly, the majority of Personal Injury claims, including Accidents at Work, are funded by way of a ‘no win no fee’ Conditional Fee Agreement. Therefore, it is misleading to say that if you are injured at work, you will receive a £74,000.00 bill. Under a Conditional Fee Agreement, the Claimant recovers 100% of their damages and then the Solicitor seeks to recover their reasonable legal costs and disbursements in addition to this from the Defendant at the conclusion of the claim. There are also alternative funding arrangements, including Legal Expenses Insurance in some cases.

Whilst I cannot comment on the circumstances of the individual cases referred to in the Article, although £74,000.00 Solicitor’s costs in a claim worth only £12,750.00 may appear, on the face of it, to be disproportionate, there may well be a variety of reasons why costs in that case escalated as high as they did. I have been representing victims of accidents for in excess of 5 years. In my experience, one of the reasons costs accrue and escalate as far as they do is due to the behaviour of the Defendants and their liability insurers. Under the Personal Injury Pre-Action Protocol, there are certain steps that should be taken in a Personal Injury claim and there are time limits in which the Defendant has to respond. More often than not, they do not comply with the Protocol or respond within these time periods. This has the effect of increasing costs. Defendants can also be obstructive and do not deal with matters expeditiously. I can cite one example of a claim that I have against a very well known supermarket in which the Defendant has not only failed to provide their formal response on the issue of liability within the Protocol period, but has also failed in their duty of disclosure and provided no documentation relevant to the case. The limitation period in which to either issue proceedings or settle the claim is fast approaching. This information is, therefore, crucial. We had no choice but to make an application to the Court which has only increased Costs.

There is a lot of media attention at present in light of the Ministry of Justice and the Government’s proposals to change the way in which Personal Injury cases and Clinical Negligence claims are funded. In particular, the MOJ intends to implement the proposals put forward by Lord Justice Jackson and as detailed in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Unfortunately, what the general public are reading in the newspapers and what this particular Article demonstrates is, in my opinion, misinformation ‘cooked up’ by the ABI and very much a one sided view of the matter. It comes as no surprise that the Association of British Insurers are claiming that insurance premiums are increasing as a result of Personal Injury claims, in particular Road Traffic Accidents, and that this is as a result of Solicitors’ costs. In my experience, insurance premiums have always been high and the ABI are simply using this as an excuse to attack the personal injury market. As I am sure many of us have experienced, insurers have always charged high premiums and when it comes to making a claim under those policies, they want to dispose of those claims for as little as possible. It is no different in the case of Personal Injury claims which can attract high costs as a result.

How many of you have received unsolicited text messages along the lines of ‘You can claim £3,750.00 for the accident that you had, just text or call this number’? The reason for this is that a large number of insurers are selling your details on to Claims Management Companies, without your permission and in breach of data protection, for a profit. Therefore, the insurers are making a profit off the back of an industry they allege is resulting in disproportionate costs.

Moreover, costs recoverability in Road Traffic Accident claims with a value of £10,000.00 or less are subject to ‘Fixed Recoverable’ costs in which the Claimant’s Solicitor is only entitled to recover low costs. The majority of claims in this Country will fall within the ‘low value’ bracket and are now pursued through an online Portal introduced by the Government to ‘streamline’ Road Traffic Accident claims. They are also submitting proposals to extend this process to cover claims with a value up to £25,000.00.

The current proposals will deny deserved Claimants their Access to Justice. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence and unable to work for the rest of your life, how would you feel? What if you were a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair and required round the clock care for the rest of your life? Would you want a proportion of your Solicitors costs to be taken from your damages?

The proposals which the Government intend to implement will deny deserved Claimants their full compensation. The intention is to deduct a proportion of the Solicitors’ costs from their damages. I cannot see that this provides them with Access to Justice. The whole purpose of liability insurance and the reason why it is taken out is to cover businesses and individuals against the risk that a claim may be brought against them where they have been negligent or failed in the Duty of Care owed to the injured person.

It is interesting that David Cameron and the Conservative Government have been involved in lobbying for the proposed changes to take effect given that the Government is funded by large Corporations, which include insurers, and are working closely with the Association of British Insurers. It comes as no surprise that they too have been involved in fuelling the misconceptions surrounding Personal Injury Claims.

It is important that the general public are not lead to believe that if they have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, they cannot successfully bring a claim or be reasonably compensated for their injuries without receiving a huge Solicitors Bill.

To call the current system ‘dysfunctional’ is preposterous. If indeed Mr Dalton has been quoted correctly, the ABI has simply used this as an opportunity to discourage deserved Claimants from making claims. It is important that members of the public realise this.

EDEN COCKSASSOCIATEHUBBARD PEGMAN & WHITNEY LLP

Direct Line:020 8735 9777Secretary:020 8735 9779Direct Fax:020 8735 9780Direct e-mail:ec@hpwsolicitors.co.uk


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