It has not been a good year for law firms specialising in personal injury cases and neither has it been a good year for those people who are not that well off who need their services. In particular, the government’s much debated Lapso (Legal Aid and Prisoner Reform Act) legislation with its focus on legal aid in the form of “no win no fee” services has targeted the industry.
Much of the attack on the personal injury sector has had its focus on whiplash injury claims, with the strongly voiced opinion that the number of these claims has forced up the cost of vehicle insurance premiums.
Although the “no win no fee” system is to survive the legislation, albeit in a much reduced form, the term has attracted quite a lot of criticism from some circles. It would be useful to stand back from the debate, which has been quite heated, and look at the value that “no win no fee” services have had for the less well off in the community. If the service was removed completely, then it would mean that the only people who could seek compensation for injuries received due to accidents that they were not responsible for would be those who could pay for the legal costs themselves or who had the relevant insurance cover.
There have been some genuine grounds for concern when it comes to some of the more disreputable methods to encourage accident victims to claim compensation. The amount of advertising that has become commonplace does make it a lot more difficult for genuine accident victims to work out who is a reliable and qualified person to seek help with a compensation claim.
One of the more difficult aspects of deciding who to use for a compensation claim is whether to use a so called “claims management company” or a personal injury firm directly. Claims management companies act more like a broker and do not, themselves, have the qualified and experienced personnel with the genuine commitment to seeing through an accident case. Instead they refer the client to a solicitor for a “referral fee” and do not operate under the same sort of code as the solicitors themselves.
Although the plan to ban referral fees will probably dilute the impact of the claims management companies, it is likely that the government’s drive to promote ABS’s or alternative business structures will see a corporatisation of personal injury services in the form of them appearing as adjuncts of companies like Tesco or the Co-op. This is a trend which is similar to the appearance of services like banking becoming part of these retail giants’ repertoire. The danger with this development is that personal injury claims will be treated with about the same degree of attention as the queue at the supermarket till.
Most accident victims have enough personal problems on their hands without having to worry about the quality of service provided by those claiming to offer a personal injury service. In this situation, the best option is still to rely on the expertise and qualifications that a genuine personal injury law firm such as our own can provide.
Qualified solicitors are much more likely to be able to assess an accident case based on their experience of such cases and decide whether there are reasonable grounds for a compensation claim. It is far more probable that accident victims will receive fair treatment for the injustice that they have suffered by taking this option.