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Personal injury (PI) lawyers have slammed the Ministry of Justice for its failure to implement far-reaching reform of the claims process.
An MoJ paper on reform of the PI claims process was published after two lengthy consultation periods with claimant and defendant lawyers, insurers, claims management companies, trade unions and legal representative bodies in April 2007.
Under the proposals, claimant lawyers would no longer be able to claw back referral fees from claims businesses and after-the-event (ATE) premiums through the settlement.
Instead success fees would pay the solicitors' costs, which are expected to become proportionate to the overall settlement.
In addition, both insurers and solicitors would have to work within set time periods, to speed up admittance or dispute of liability.
Where a case is disputed, a district judge will intervene and set new fixed costs and time periods which are proportionate to the case.
However, the MoJ has now said the new process will only apply to road traffic accident (RTA) cases valued between £1,000 and £10,000, with fixed response times and fixed costs.
Defendant lawyers argue that by only addressing RTA and failing to look at employers’ liability (EL) and public liability (PL) claims processes, the government has created a two-tier system.
Beachcroft head of strategic litigation Andrew Parker branded the exercise “a waste of time and effort.”
“It is typical of this government to put out some grand plans so we do a lot of work to respond and then they come back with just some tinkering of the rules,” he added.
The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (Foil) said the government had shirked its responsibilities.
“They appear to have avoided any difficult questions, said Anthony Hughes, vice president of Foil and DWF partner.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said it was “relieved” the MoJ had avoided EL and PL reform.
But APIL president and Charles Russell partner Amanda Stevens said she was “disappointed” that the MoJ failed to make any recommendations on rehabilitation and had not given a timeline for when it expects to implement the proposals.