It is official, personal injury solicitors can no longer offer clients inducements in return for their business, as the Courts Bill was given Royal Assent on Friday.
The move, which has been introduced as part of the Government’s continuing ‘battle’ to remove fraud from the industry, follows suit to what has already been carried out on claims management companies and will force those firms who are currently offering inducements to rethink their advertising strategies.
The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, has been defiant that this move was important in their fight to rid the industry of fraudulent claims, along with the pushing through of the much maligned SARAH Bill, which also received Royal Assent last week.
The latter’s passing through the House of Lords. of course means that the controversial ‘fundamental dishonesty’ ruling will now take effect, despite many solicitors, claimant and defendant, still being none the wiser on how to define it or how, within the courts, it can be applied.
It’s vague definition has led to the personal injury sector expressing fears that the ruling could lead to instances where insurers make spurious counter claims in order to see a case thrown out.
Mr Grayling was delighted that the Acts received Royal Assent, hailing the SARAH Bill as a ‘balance to counter the health and safety culture’ therefore providing employers and volunteers that the context whereby which negligence has taken place will now be taken into account.
He continued his words of praise for the SARAH Bill by saying: “Not only have responsible small businesses been stifled by unnecessary insurance costs and the fear of being sued but volunteers have been deterred from taking part in socially beneficial activities and brave people have been put off from helping someone in trouble.”
This has been another sticking point for the personal injury sector, with concerns that it may excuse negligence and see worthy claimants lose their right to access to justice and the compensation needed to help with their rehabilitation.
Scott Rees and Co Marketing Partner, David Byrne, praised the decision to ban inducements, saying: “Inducements are something that most of the personal injury industry, except for those who use them of course, have been campaigning for over a sustained period of time and we, as a firm, are supportive of its introduction.”
“It is imperative that a claimant chooses legal representation based on the quality of the service that they will receive from their chosen legal firm and not because they were offered an iPad or cash up front.”
“We don’t necessarily buy into the government’s theory that inducements are responsible for fraud within the industry and there has not been any findings that can back this argument up. Having said that this is a good day for the profession when it comes to competition within the legal market.”
He was less positive, however, when talking about the passing of the SARAH Bill, which he labelled as ‘confusing in parts’ and ‘self-serving to the needs of the governments and the insurance industry’, particularly when it come to the fundamental dishonest rule.
This new legislation will tell judges to consider if the person being sued was doing something for the benefit of society when their act of negligence occurred, which claimant solicitors argue is should not be relevant.
Speaking about this element of the bill, David Byrne, added: “Whether they were doing something for the benefit of society or not is completely irrelevant. Whatever they are doing, the correct health and safety measures have to be considered and if they are not, and someone is injured in the process, then those who are in breach should be punished.”
“What the government have effectively done here is given people who have been negligent a loophole whereby they can avoid being held accountable for their actions, which is completely unfair on the victim or victims of their negligence.”