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Road traffic lawyers' warning to Lord Young over compensation level

8 October 2010

Road traffic lawyers have responded to early suggestions that Lord Young’s report, expected on 15 October, would reduce access to justice, saying any new laws should ensure equality of arms between claimants and defendants.

One major element of the new framework for the personal injury sector, the Motor Accident Solicitors Society has said, should include tougher regulation of advertising and referral fees.

Speaking ahead of the Claims Standards Council conference next week, MASS chairman John Spencer said there should be “a single oversight, regulatory and enforcement framework in place regarding advertising and referral fees, thereby preventing unfair competition and ensuring access to justice for the consumer”.

One of the proposals mooted by Lord Young is the ban on the recoverability of success fees and conditional fees, an option already put forward by Lord Justice Jackson in his review of costs in civil proceedings.

Such a move, Spencer, said, “could result in significant unintentional consequences”.

“When considering curbing legal costs, we would urge caution to ensure that this is not to the detriment of the accident victim and their entitlement to access independent legal advice,” he said.

Spencer said that keeping damages at current levels while expecting lawyers fees to be paid out of victims’ compensation “would result in claimants taking a significant cut in the compensation they are fully entitled to”.

“This cannot be in the best interests of the accident victim or society. Even if there was an increase in damages levels of ten per cent, as recommended by Lord Justice Jackson, this would be instantly negated by the need to pay for any after the event policy premiums and success fee,” he continued.

“If this policy came into force, coupled with there being no increase in damage levels, even to cover inflation over the past ten years, a consumer would not only be a victim of the accident itself, but also the victim of a government policy change that would in real terms reduce the level of compensation they are fully entitled to.

“Evidence has already been provided to the Civil Justice Council on how accident victims, those with injuries of maximum severity in particular, will lose out on very significant sums of compensation in cases of this sort, sometimes amounting to over £100,000.”

Categorised in:

Costs Expert witness Professional negligence Road traffic