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31 March 2014 / legal-blog
A blog article by Jonathan White
Tomorrow marks a year since Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations on civil costs and funding entered into force in England and Wales. The most significant civil justice reforms in over a decade, and their impact on the legal landscape, are the topic of discussion at Wednesday’s Westminster Legal Policy Forum, where I will be speaking – in good company.
Guests of honour include Robert Wright, Head of Civil Litigation Funding and Costs at the Ministry of Justice, and Senior Costs Judge Master Hurst.
Although well-prepared for the reforms, many law firms have been affected. As I will outline at the Forum on Wednesday, a consultation of our panel firms showed that some of the most vulnerable people are seeing their access to justice cut as firms have to weigh up which cases remain commercially viable. Firms are under intense pressure post-Jackson to deliver the same service at a lower cost.
Changes arising from LASPO and significant reductions to fixed fees mean that firms can recover less in costs from the at-fault party’s insurer. In this dynamic legal landscape, it’s more important than ever to ensure that access to justice is preserved, in particular for vulnerable groups of people. Part of the answer is the principle of ‘no win no fee’.
It is built into National Accident Helpline’s business model, and all of our panel firms operate on the basis of no fees being charged if the case is unsuccessful. Unfortunately there are bad apples within the sector for whom the meaning of this principle is far from clear, as indicated in the report by the Legal Ombudsman published in January this year.
We have to stamp out bad practice and the government must recognise ‘no win no fee’ as an indispensable part of the post-LASPO legal marketplace. Another and related issue remoulding the legal landscape is the promised uplift in general damages.
It was intended to ensure that claimants are properly compensated; however, the majority of our panel are yet to see evidence of increased awards or offers.
Injured people have undoubtedly been subjected to a reduction in compensation in real terms. This was not Lord Justice Jackson’s intention.
We are responding to a post-Jackson world by working closer with our panel firms to improve efficiency as well as championing best practice ‘no win no fee’.
National Accident Helpline and its panel firms are committed to supporting genuine accident victims and in particular in ensuring that the most vulnerable groups continue to have access to justice, despite the challenges created by the reforms.
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