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An after-the-event litigation costs scheme has been extended to allow companies and individuals throughout the UK to get £50,000 in insurance cover to take their cases to court.
Under the LawAssist scheme, devised by Greystoke Legal Services, clients who receive little or no legal aid will be able to pay a £357 premium for each £6,000 worth of legal advice.
It was originally set up at the beginning of the year but was discretionary, limited to individuals in England and Wales, and offered maximum cover of £18,500.
Greystoke director Bob Gordon said the new revamped scheme was a simple insurance contract being underwritten by insurance giant CNA International and would now offer cover for medical negligence and tribunals.
Gordon said for clients the extended coverage came down to one thing: "Lawyers do not have the fear of losing. The biggest thing of all for the client is the fear of losing."
He rejected suggestions LawAssist would encourage more people to go to already clogged courts, arguing it would promote more out of court settlements because defendants would realise that plaintiffs had the resources to fight them. "Certainly we are not in any way there to promote frivolous actions," he said.
Around 650 law firms belong to the scheme, which has so far helped nearly 1,000 clients. Just over 70 per cent of client applications are approved with 65 per cent of those relating to personal injury actions. Greystoke will focus on pushing the scheme in Northern Ireland where there is no contingency fee system.