Litigation work set to explode in new year

Litigation work is set to rise in the new year because claimant firms are delaying difficult cases until they get used to the Woolf reforms, a leading defendant personal injury lawyer says.

Martin Bruffell, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers and partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer, says the 25 per cent fall in litigation since the reforms is largely due to plaintiff firms holding back complicated cases.

“I think that at the moment claimant solicitors are pushing through their easy cases, using those to test their procedures,” says Bruffell. “More difficult cases are being held back, and it may be that in the new year they will start coming through.

“In these low level cases insurers are admitting liability, but once the decks are cleared the liability issue will come back and there will be more cases going forward.”

Mick Leary, claims manager at Zurich Municipal, says it will be six months before the full effects of the reforms can be judged. He says: “There are undoubtedly more complex matters being held back and kept in reserve. We may be in for a hard winter.”

President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) Ian Walker, a partner at claimant firm Russell Jones & Walker, says: “I think Woolf will result in a permanent reduction in litigation, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was an upswing in the new year once everyone has their files in order.”