The Prison and Courts Bill
This Bill has been scrapped as a direct result of the Election being announced and Parliament being dissolved. Claimant representatives will be happy about this, as the Bill contained wide ranging reforms that were potentially unhelpful to Claimants. Amongst the proposals, was the introduction of a system of tariffs for Whiplash claims. This would mean that instead of each case being assessed on its own merits, proposed fixed damages would have been introduced. The Bill also included provision for the increase of the small claims limit in Road Traffic cases to £5,000, with the upper limit in other personal injury cases rising from £1,000 to £2,000. This would effectively mean very little by the way of costs would be recoverable on these cases. Subsequently, personal injury specialists could not take on these cases as they would not be cost effective to do so. This would lead to more litigants in person and a general clogging up of an already turgid and inefficient Courts system. The Bill also proposed banning offers from Defendants without a medical examination.
The Introduction of Fixed Fees in Clinical Negligence Cases
Mr Jackson LJ is continuing his crusade to introduce fixed fees in all personal injury claims. He is now overseeing a review of fixed fees in Clinical Negligence cases. A consultation paper has just reached its deadline on this matter. It seems very likely that fixed fees will be introduced at some point for cases valued at £25,000 and less. There is uncertainty as to whether this scheme will be extended as originally suggested to cases valued up to £250,000. His report will be published at the end of July 2017.
Again this is another attempt by the Government to try and reign in legal costs, particularly in cases, which are seen as funded by the tax payer. These cases are very complex and are often difficult to get off the ground without funding for medical experts reports. There are enough problems dealing with these cases without introducing fixed fees. It is also inappropriate in even lower value cases, not only because of the complexity of the cases but without fail the NHSLA, who act as claims handlers for the NHS, always routinely deny liability in all cases. The NHSLA are now staffed by ex-insurance employees, they look at the claims using financial criteria rather than Legal knowledge. Unfortunately, this means extra costs are incurred in pursuing these cases. Again, this scheme will again mean that as it is no longer cost effective to pursue these claims, solicitors will no longer be able to take on this work and access to justice will be denied to Claimants.