30 Aug, 2011

Government Justice Bill will stop thousands of legitimate injury claims every year- say lawyers


As the political conference season approaches, Birmingham, UK-based DBS Law is releasing details of legitimate injury claim cases that they say demonstrate the weakness of Government proposals for abolishing the current system of NO Win No Fee arrangements in its Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.


DBS Law says the current system allows anybody regardless of their wealth the opportunity of taking a legal case against another person or an organisation that has caused them some damage or loss.  Importantly it helps ordinary people take on rich and powerful insurance companies.


Under pressure from insurance companies the Government are proposing to abolish the Success Fee that’s paid by the defendant’s insurer when they lose a case in court. Ministers are preparing instead to make claimants pay this fee out of their compensation.  This will swing the balance of power in personal injury cases in favour of the big insurance companies.


DBS Law MD, Rob Bhol, said “Making and winning a compensation claim is rarely straight forward.  Complex cases require detailed investigations by the claimant’s solicitor which are expensive and time consuming. It is only possible for solicitor to carry out a thorough search of the evidence in every claim because of the current funding arrangements.


A successful claimant’s legal costs are paid by the defendant. Additionally there is a higher “Success Fee” paid by the defendant’s insurance company to the claimant’s solicitor if the case is not settled before going to court.


DBS Law point to three cases recently settled by solicitors that may not have been pursued by the client under the new regime proposed by the Justice Minister Ken Clarke. 


A 52 year old woman who was burned whilst having her upper lip hair removed at a top London skin care clinic. After a lengthy investigation by her solicitor it was found that no patch test had been done before the treatment so she won £750. However the legal costs were £3,500 so if she had had to pay a success fee out of her compensation she would have lost out.  She wouldn’t have taken the claim in the first place and the clinic would have no reason to be more careful in future.


A child minder was badly hurt when a wall collapsed on her in a storm in 2007. The two year child she was looking after was tragically killed in the accident.  Camden council were responsible for the wall but denied liability.  A long running criminal case associated with the accident frustrated the claimant’s solicitor’s investigation and it took four years to settle the case. Costs were very high and would have rendered the £20,000 she eventually won worthless had she needed to pay her costs herself.  The complexity of the case may have led to the case being abandoned in the beginning too without cross funding from previous success fees.


A woman who slipped in a shopping centre permanently injuring her back won £10,000 but may have got nothing under the system proposed by the Government. Liability was denied by two parties it was unclear who held the duty of care.  Barristers rejected the case because it was too uncertain.  DBS lawyer was able to take the case because of existence of the success fee which makes taking a difficult case to court feasible.  As a result of exhaustive investigation by a DBS Lawyer the client received £10,000.  The absence of a Success Fee would have encouraged the defendant to hold out for the case to go to court making the case uneconomic for the client and the solicitor.


“Forcing victims to pay their lawyers fee from their settlements will deter most claimants from pursuing their case no matter how deserving it is, it is a travesty of Justice,” said Rob Bhol.


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