The President of the Law Society has urged the Justice Minister, Helen Grant to delay the implementation of the new fast-track system and portal expansion stating that it is “unacceptable” that the government have not published new procedure rules for the reforms which come into effect on 31st July 2013.
The extension of the road traffic accident (RTA) portal will mean that from the end of July 2013, the portal will cover both public and employer liability claims. The reforms will also mean that there will be fixed fees for all claims valued at up to £25,000 – the majority of cases fall into this category.
What Mr Grayling may think is an attempt to address a perceived compensation culture seems, to me, only to further restrict and remove access to justice for ordinary people.
As part of the many changes to justice in England and Wales, the UK Government laid out in law key reforms in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which are set to cost the personal injury industry millions of pounds.
Other reforms to the portal include, reducing the fixed fee from £1,200 to £500 for claims valued at up to £10,000 – known as the ‘fast track’. The majority of personal injury RTA and low valued claims are dealt with within this track as they include injuries such as whiplash.
The Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling commented on the reforms in February 2013, saying: “We are turning the tide on the compensation culture. It’s pushing up the cost of insurance, and making it more expensive to drive a car or organise an event. It’s time the whole system was rebalanced.”
Law Society President, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said, “These far-reaching changes to civil litigation costs are to be implemented in less than four weeks’ time. The government appears to be hell-bent on disruption, by failing to give the profession the notice they reasonably need. This could have a severe effect on access to justice for many thousands of accident victims. I have asked Helen Grant to delay implementation so that solicitors and their clients, including defendants, can properly prepare for these changes and achieve a smooth transition.”
Andrew Peters, Legal Manager at Bott and Co commented on the Law Society’s plea: “I endorse Ms Scott-Moncrieff’s comments and the shambolic way that these ill-conceived reforms are being introduced can only further prejudice the rights of the innocent victims of injury. What Mr Grayling may think is an attempt to address a perceived compensation culture seems, to me, only to further restrict and remove access to justice for ordinary people.”