Personal injury claimants will benefit from firms growing in size to survive civil litigation reforms, a leading industry figure said today.
This article first appeared in the Law Society Gazette, 7th November 2014
David Johnson, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, said the claimant industry is undergoing the consolidation that defendant firms experienced when insurers squeezed their fees.
Speaking at the Motor Accident Solicitors Society conference, on whether reform has impacted genuine claimants, Johnson said this ‘bulking up’ of the claimant industry would improve the service offered to injured people, as firms improve their IT, communications and efficiency.
Many have predicted that firms can only survive changes such as LASPO and reduced fixed fees by joining together to form more powerful entities that can handle large volumes of work.
‘Bigger economies of scale in claimant PI will be good for client service,’ he said. ‘I don’t think the reforms profoundly impact genuine claimants in the same way as the industry. The claimants themselves will probably end up with an enhanced service.’
Johnson also dismissed the idea that the controversial section 56 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill currently going through parliament will adversely affect claimants’ access to justice.
The section gives judges the opportunity to strike out claims in their entirety if the claimant has been found to be fundamentally dishonest in any part of the process – except if that would cause the claimant substantial injustice.
‘Section 56 will not send claimants running away in their droves and if they do that is because the section is not being properly explained,’ added Johnson. There will no opening of the floodgates ‘as a defendant lawyer doesn’t assert fraud lightly’, he said.
John Spencer, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the falling number of claims suggested that some genuine claimants are being denied access to justice. In particular, he noted there has been a 3% reduction in the number of total claims being brought, with motor claims specifically down 6%.
‘Is the claimant being driven away? Yes, and the facts make that very clear,’ said Spencer. ‘There has been a huge reduction in whiplash cases and there are genuine people in there with low-value cases which should be brought but can’t be.’