New insurance for PI cases

Lawyers are welcoming a legal insurance firm's new conditional fee policies which cover pre-proceedings disbursements in personal injury cases – even if a case is abandoned before it reaches court.

A spokesman for Essex-based Amicus Legal says he believes that it is the only company offering policies on a case-by-case basis, which will cover the cost of, for example, medical reports commissioned before proceedings are issued.

The policies – available after the injury occurs – will cost £75 for road traffic accident (RTA) cases and £159 for other personal injury cases. This compares with Abbey Legal Protection's prices of £95.68 for RTAs and £161.20 for other cases – and these do not provide cover if proceedings are not issued.

The new Amicus cover will automatically be included at no extra charge in all policies issued under its “case by case” facility, where each case is screened free of charge before cover is granted.

Amicus director Christine Malkin stresses that there are no hidden extra arrangement fees and cover will be made available on the basis of a client's statement if Amicus decides there is a “reasonable prospect of success”.

She says: “The new cover makes it less likely that clients will be deterred from obtaining medical reports and other evidence at an early stage.

“It should help solicitors by enabling them to investigate cases thoroughly without worrying about the cost of disbursements if they have to abandon cases before proceedings are issued.”

Chairman of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group Richard Miller says: “This is potentially a good move forward. One of the problems with conditional fee agreement insurance is that if you don't issue proceedings, you don't get disbursements back.”

Another personal injury lawyer says he has not heard of such cover being available before and urges other firms to follow suit.

Ian Walker, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and head of personal injury at City firm Russell Jones & Walker, says: “When the Lord Chancellor announced that legal aid was to go and personal injury cases would be on a conditional fee arrangement basis, we anticipated that there would be new insurance products coming out onto the market, which from a consumer point of view is very good news.”

However, he warns that the package may not be as attractive as it sounds, because unlike with Accident Line Protect, where lawyers decide the strength of a case, Amicus must assess the likely success rate of each case.