14th May 2014
People wanting to make genuine a personal injury claim will be boosted by new proposals outlined in Parliament by justice secretary Ken Clarke, as they could see people receive more in damages and in a shorter time than currently.
The suggestions follow a review carried out last year by Lord Justice Jackson, which had been at the behest of the previous government. One of the key changes that Mr Clarke is looking to make as a result is that successful law firms claim their fees from the compensation award, rather than claiming money directly from the losing side.
However, this wouldn't mean that personal injury claimants would necessarily receive less money, as the justice secretary added that they would receive "a ten per cent uplift in general damages where they have suffered loss", whilst the proportion of damages claimable by the solicitors would be capped at 25 per cent.
There could be wider benefits for the population too, as Mr Clarke asserted that the move could see the cost of car insurance come down. This comes after the Association of British Insurers (ABI) noted that £40 had been added to the average annual motor cover as a result of an increase in legal fees for insurers. Mr Clarke also believes that the new rules would also save the NHS £50m a year in legal fees which can then be spent on other services.
Shadow justice secretary Sadique Khan admitted that the changes would be "difficult to disagree with on face value", but questioned whether they "could restrict access to justice" for poorer people wanting to make a personal injury claim.
However, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly clarified that the government is "not talking about ending no-win, no-fee agreements" and that "in practice [these changes would] mean that lawyers will have to consider carefully whether they think a case will go through and the claimants will hunt around to see which lawyers are charging the lowest fees."
The plans will also see claims of up to £50,000 dealt with online, which can speed up proceedings – of the 680,000 personal injury claim cases arising each year, 90 per cent are under this amount, meaning that the vast majority of claims could be settled more quickly.
Additionally, the maximum value for small claims will be increased to £15,000, which will again save time, as it will mean that claims of this level will no longer need to go through the sometimes laborious courts process.