The government have rejected Labour’s appeal to delay the Civil Justice Reforms. Labour appealed for the planned implementation date of the 1st April 2013 to be delayed by six months. However, the government claims that the timescales set in place are not unreasonable and should be in line with the launching of Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).
Also on the agenda were the recent demands that the 25% cap on success fees taken from a personal injury claimant’s damages be calculated on the basis of all heads of loss, rather than just past loss, which again the government rejected.
Labour’s main complaint revolved around the lack of time that practitioners have to prepare for the changes in the draft legislation.
Speaking for Labour was solicitor Lord Beecham who said: “One might have thought that it would be sensible to bring all the changes together and do it at a time which allows the parties and the professions to prepare adequately.
“I hope the minister will look again at the timetable with a view to deferring implementation of whatever regulations finally emerge for six months until October this year.”
But these protestations fell on deaf ears as the government vowed to move forward with their plans and denied that they were unreasonable.
Justice Minister Lord McNally said: “We are not persuaded that the timescales we have set are unreasonable, and we will not be deferred from the course that we have set… These orders will go through to take account of the fact that LASPO comes into effect on 1st April 2013.”
In regards to the success fee cap Lord Beecham and Liberal Democrat solicitor peer Lord Phillips raised the fact that Lord Justice Jackson had offered a different stance on including future loss in the success fee. This was after Jackson said last year that it would be appropriate in certain cases.
But Lord McNally dismissed this as well saying: “A sharp-eyed lawyer would say that the noble Lord’s quote about Lord Justice Jackson did not endorse the counterview but simply said that it had merit, which is not the same as advocating that the government change their policy.
“Even if it were, that is the government’s policy. It is the right policy because it protests the future earnings and the future cover for victims in these cases. It remains our policy on that merit, and we are willing to defend it on that basis.”
There are now just 33 days until the 1st of April and these are truly worrying times for the personal injury sector and the preservation of the claimant’s right to access to justice. This is emphasised after another personal injury firm fell into administration and with the government showing no signs of budging over these extreme reforms you can guarantee they wont be the last firm to suffer. The fall in personal injury solicitors can only reduce the opportunity and deny the chance for real victims of accidents their justice and entitlement to compensation.