Changes to legal costs for Personal Injury Claims
Huddersfield lawyer says proposed changes to civil legal costs could affect those injured
CONCERNS have been raised about changes to the way personal injury cases could be funded in the future.
A report by Lord Justice Jackson into civil litigation costs has made a number of recommendations, some of which could hit the pocket of those seeking compensation for a serious injury.
Leading personal injury lawyer Sarah Young said the proposed changes could leave accident victims who need care and support for their injuries, having to pay their legal fees.
Ms Young, of Huddersfield’s Ridley and Hall Solicitors, said this was not about lawyers complaining about their pay, but something which would affect anyone injured.
Currently in Personal Injury (PI) cases costs have to by paid for by the losing party. But Lord Justice Jackson has suggested that the costs should be paid by the claimant – the person who has suffered an injury and is seeking compensation.
Ms Young said: “There has been a suggestion that compensation should go up by 10%, but there is still going to be a shortfall for people who are injured and may have to pay for care out of their compensation.
“It just seems completely wrong to me – when somebody has caused an injury to others they should be the one who picks up the tab.”
A decade ago the Law Commission suggested damages should increase by 50%, something which never materialised.
Ms Young added: “It’s not until someone is affected themselves that they’ll realise how much these proposals could change the system and they’ll say ‘this doesn’t seem right’.
“People may think this is just lawyers moaning about getting less pay – but it’s far from the case.
“This is about people who, having been injured, will then face extra costs.
“There are massive changes in the system where we are getting a new fixed fee for road traffic accidents and I think we should allow that to bed in and settle down before changing the whole system again,” she added.
But she has welcomed some of Lord Justice Jackson’s suggestions, one of which is cutting out the ‘middle man’.
She explained: “One of the things I welcome from Lord Jackson’s report is the removal of referral fees – that’s when solicitors pay claims farmers or middle men a fee to take on a case.
“Some solicitors can pay up to £700 to buy a personal injury case and it’s something I’ve always thought was wrong for the professional and completely unnecessary.
“Why pay a middle man who advertises on the TV to take on a case?
“It’s not in the best interest for the claimant because who will take the case on? The person who can pay the most or a solicitor who has the best interest in the client and can best represent them?
As vice-president of the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society, Ms Young said she hopes the Law Society and the Association of Personal Injury Solicitors will gather the views of the profession and put the case forward to ensure changes are for the better of all.
Jan 25 2010 by Joanne Douglas, Huddersfield Daily Examiner