Many of the region’s public will be unable to fight personal injury or insurance battles under new legislation, warns one of the region’s leading law experts.
Helen Townsend, who specialises in personal injury and litigation at law firm, Bowser Ollard and Bentley said the public are unaware of the changes and need to know.
“These changes have a huge bearing on anyone taking civil, personal injury and clinical negligence matters to court as these areas of law are undergoing the most radical change in years,” said Mrs Townsend, whose firm have offices in both Wisbech and March.
“For over 10 years, in successful claims the claimant has recovered all of the damages, together with legal costs, which included their injury lawyer’s success fee and the claimant’s after the event insurance policy,” she said.
“Under the new rules, although damages to compensate claimants have gone up by 10 per cent, those claiming will be faced with the cost of protective insurance premiums and their solicitor’s success fee.
“The extra costs will often be above the value of the 10 per cent increase, and in low value claims, could far exceed the value of the claim. This means that the less seriously injured will not be able to afford legal representation.”
Mrs Townsend said the changes are a result of a review by the Government of civil litigation costs, known in legal circles as the Jackson review, which were intended to promote access to justice.
However, she said this wasn’t the case.
“In reality, this will deprive innocent accident victims of justice. It will also penalise the seriously injured. As part of the compensation they get for damages, these will now be diverted to pay legal fees.”
Mrs Townsend added that the reforms, which are still on-going, provided a host of other problems.
“It is a complicated situation, which is still being played out,” she said. “My advice to the public is to make sure you seek expert advice.”
Her comments come at the same time as the Law Society, the body representing solicitors in England, launched a campaign to get personal injury claimants to get proper legal advice and not to accept early compensation offers made directly by the insurers.
“This campaign doesn’t pull any punches, but we need to make a clear message: see your solicitor, don’t accept the insurers’ first offer and don’t deal with claims management companies,” said Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society.