The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has thrown the personal injury sector into disarray. He has confirmed that fixed recoverable costs for road traffic accident claims on the portal of up to £10,000 will be cut to just £500, effective from the end of April.
In a consultation response published yesterday, Grayling brought the sectors worst fear into reality and also announced that new protocols extending the scheme to £25,000 and to the employer and public liability claims will be implemented from the end of July.
Currently the amount of fixed recoverable costs for cases up to £10,000 are set at £1,200 which means the personal injury sector will now be £700 per successful case worse off than in the past.
Grayling said: “I want to see claims handled quickly and efficiently so accident victims with genuine cases can be compensated as soon as possible. That is why following consultation and careful consideration, I have confirmed that changes to the digital system used for settling uncontested road accident claims will take place next year.
“From April the costs lawyers can charge for using the scheme will be reduced to reflect the work and costs involved and from July the system will be expanded to include higher-value claims and accidents at work or in public places.”
He went on to underline that the changes along with the wider reforms that are a foot will bring more balance to the system by making lawyers costs proportionate and in turn create an environment where insurers can pass on savings to their customers through lower premiums.
This is obviously great news for the insurers but a dull day for the genuine claimant. In his response Chris Grayling dismissed the notion that their access to justice was being blocked because lawyers will still work for the revised costs.
But the point Chris Grayling, with all his experience of the legal sector (he had none before his appointment as Justice Secretary) has consistently missed throughout this consultation, is that working for such minimal costs is going to have an adverse affect on how the legal sector can operate, leading to cutbacks on jobs, hours and with that the quality of service.
This has a knock on effect on the genuine claimant who as a result of these cutbacks will no longer have access to a legal expert when confronting their claim for compensation and will be forced to take the dreaded route of taking on the insurers and their lawyers by themselves.
Attention now turns towards the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) judicial review which is set to be heard tomorrow, although many across the sector fear now that this ending in failure is a formality.
1. The Guardian; Sean Dempsey; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/05/chris-grayling-announces-legal-aid-reform-u-turn-politics-live-blog