As April 2013 and the introduction or introduction of changed rules for personal injury cases becomes ever closer, it appears that it will be a bad year, next year, especially for the seriously injured.
At first sight, the rules appear to be just a change back to what was introduced in 1995, when the government of the day decided to shift the burden of personal injury litigation from itself to the claimant. The claimant was required to pay up to 25% of the legal costs out of their compensation package, presuming that their case was won. The disadvantage for the claimant, which was quickly appreciated at the time, was that the payments were calculated to cover what was needed to cover the expenses due to their injuries, both in the present and in the future. A payment of 25% out of this package meant that they were then seriously short of what they needed.
The situation changed again in 1999, when the Labour government modified the no win no fee system and introduced what is still current today. With the present system, the claimant gets to keep the entire package with legal fees, insurance and court costs, if any, paid by the losing defendant. If the case is lost, then the personal injury solicitor representing the claimant would have to foot the bill, but would be prepared to do this from time to time, because they would be able to cover costs from winning cases.
The apparent losers in the present situation, and the most vocal critics, are the insurance companies who have to pay any payments out of their profit margins. The insurance companies, together with a significant number of government ministers, have mounted a vigorous campaign to reverse the 1999 changes and direct the onus of legal action back to the accident victim.
This campaign appears to have been successful, with the LAPSO legislation due to come into force in April 2013 and no significant prospect of it being overturned. Together with the requirement for claimants to have to pay the legal fees out of any compensation payment yet again (similar to the 1995 legislation) the government is determined to raise the limits for small claims from £1000 to £5000 as well as reduce the number of health and safety regulations which at present control the way in which employers provide a safe working environment for their employees.
Seen together, the changes bode gloomy times for the injured after April 2013. The less seriously injured will be less likely to pay a solicitor to represent them so, in many cases, won’t bother, and will simply bear the costs of their injuries themselves. The seriously injured will be in the same situation as they would have been nearly 20 years ago – they will be under compensated by 25% and face the prospect in later years of a serious financial burden.
The only sane advice for anybody next year is to be as cautious as possible whether on the roads or at work – you really cannot afford to have an accident!