What is the future for injury lawyers after the April 2013 changes?
In April this year significant changes in the law to the workings of the no win no fee* personal injury claims process will come into force. What do these changes mean for injury lawyers? The legal profession is concerned that these changes will make it harder for “middle England” and for those ineligible for legal aid to get justice in some cases.
The definition of no win no fee* (Conditional Fee Arrangement) means that the solicitor accepts the claim on the basis that the losing side will pay his fee if his claimant wins. Historically, “success fees” have allowed the winning side’s solicitor to charge the losing side a 100% success fee, meaning that he can recoup his fees in that way, given that the claimant could not fund the action out of his own resources. The success fees traditionally, have compensated the injury lawyers who run a CFA service, for the cases they lose, in which they in turn have to stump up the success fee. It was a swings and roundabouts arrangement that kept the wheels of justice turning.
Under the new arrangements, the success fee is limited to a percentage of the winning side’s compensation award. This leaves both winning solicitor and successful claimant considerably worse off than under the previous legislation and furthermore, acts as a disincentive for injury lawyers to offer a CFA based service. Ultimately, the poorer litigant will lose out and will simply be denied justice.
At the time of writing (February 2013), the proposals for amendment to the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill recommend limiting the amount of damages payable in personal injury cases to 25%. Critics of the 25% limit claim it will make many claims uneconomic for injury lawyers to pursue, and the claimant in those instances will be denied justice. Furthermore, there are concerns that this and further restrictions will tip the balance of power to the larger insurance companies against the interests of the individual citizen.