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The beginning of an Injustice to the Injured

April 27, 2012

This week has seen a dramatic turning point in legal history as genuine financial assistance for those victims of personal injuries that were caused by accidents that were not their fault has now all but fallen by the wayside after the passing of a bill called the “Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill”.

The arrangement of offering free legal aid to victims of injuries in road traffic accidents or workplace accidents was around for decades, but in the late 1990’s was substituted by the current ‘no win no fee” arrangement that gave protection for victims who could not afford to pay for a solicitor to compile a personal injury claim against an offending party.

These changes have been of great benefit for victims of accidents as in the event of the solicitor losing the claim for compensation, they had no fee to pay for the solicitor’s services and usually received the full compensation amount if the case was won, with the burden of legal fees and compensation born by the person or persons at fault. Most third party persons or companies are insured by an Insurance company who will ultimately, pay the compensation payable as well as the legal fees of the solicitors.

At the same time there was little value in a solicitor wasting time and money trying to win claims for compensation when the available evidence was simply not sufficient, especially if the case had to work its way through the courts.

Despite some of the media reports to the contrary, this system went a long way to ensure that fraudulent claims would be stopped in their tracks before any money was paid out by anyone to fight an unwinnable compensation claim or one that was of a dubious nature. In other words the system itself had its own checks and balances.

Once a claim for compensation had been won, most solicitors’ firms, including Lamb & Co, have ensured that the innocent victim of an accident receives 100% of the compensation payments and all legal fees are recovered by the offending party.

The big change now in the new legislation is that any victim of a road traffic accident or a workplace accident will have to pay for legal fees out of any successful compensation payout. The amount payable will be capped at up to 25% of the value of the injured victims accident claim. In many cases, the amount of money awarded for the injuries sustained might be barely sufficient to cover the legal bills. Therefore, many victims are simply not going to bother to seek out a solicitor because it will not be in their financial interest. It is therefore imperative that if you have been the victim of an accident that was not your fault, that you contact a reputable firm of Solicitors sooner rather than later. It is anticipated that the Bill will become Law in April next year and as such, any claim being progressed following the implementation of the Bill, regardless of whether the accident occurred prior to April 2013, will be captured by the new rules.

Overall, it is not just the individual victim of a workplace accident that is the loser but all workers could suffer in the long term as there will be less health and safety alarm bells ringing in workplaces. With fewer injured employees trying to gain compensation employers will be less likely to bother to react when there are health and safety issues occurring in their workplaces.

With the passing of the new law, thousands of individuals will no longer bother to seek legal advice and will be left out in the cold to defend themselves.

A victim who feels unwilling to seek help from a solicitor as a result of a workplace or road traffic accident will be far more likely to seek cash assistance through the welfare system as they will not have received any compensation payout to cover the costs of time off work and even adapting their home to accommodate for a disability.

This will cause high anxiety and distress for individuals who do not have sufficient wealth to cover such unprecedented and unforeseen costs and, in the end, the cost to our society, both social and financially, could be far greater than the current provisions.

In my humbled opinion, the Government has had no regard to the victims of accidents and how they have suffered at the hands of the wrong doer. Whilst the bill has had a rough ride through the House of Lords, it is, at the time of writing, awaiting Royal Assent in order for it to become part of our English Law.

The Government is giving ‘consideration’ to cases where victims who suffer from mesothelioma disease as a result of workplace conditions will be treated in the same way as before. I have first hand knowledge of how this horrendous disease seriously and adversely affects the lives of people. For the Government to consider it appropriate that a reduction of an award be made from somebody who is gravely ill is, in my view, an absolute travesty. This is a reflection of the fact that the Insurance Industry has sadly won a political battle after the propaganda surrounding the suggestion that this country is in what has been termed a “compensation culture”. A report was completed as to whether such a culture existed which did, in fact, reveal that the amount of Injury Claims brought is actually decreasing as opposed to increasing.

The Government, in my view, wanted to blame personal injury solicitors firms for being the ultimate cause of escalating insurance premiums. This is simply not the case. Personal Injury Firms like my own work extremely hard in applying the law of ‘tort’ (a civil wrong) by ensuring that a victim of an accident is, as far as possible, put back into the position he or she would have been had the accident not have occurred. Whilst most victims of accidents would simply like to recover, from a legal perspective, the only way in which to compensate for an injury is to receive an award of money. For the Government to pass through a bill which takes some of that money away from the victim is preposterous, unjust and unfair. The Chief Executive of the Law Society has recently described the reforms as “legislation for the insurance industry, by the insurance industry”. I have to say I whole-heartedly agree and the day this Bill receives Royal Assent is a sorry day for the Justice System of England and Wales.

If you are unfortunate enough to be injured as a result of an accident through no fault of your own, call Lamb & Co Personal Injury Solicitors for free, friendly and honest advice about any possible claim for personal injury on 0151 632 2213 or text ‘claim’ to 80809. Alternatively, you can visit the website at www.lamblaw.co.uk.