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Go ahead for Jackson 'bitterly disappointing', claimant lawyers say

4 April 2011

Claimant lawyers have described the government’s decision to implement all the major reforms of the Jackson review on costs in civil litigation as “bitterly disappointing”.

David Bott, incoming president of APIL, said claimants “with the most serious of injuries” could be denied access to justice because lawyers would be less able to offer CFAs in difficult cases.

“The only party to benefit from these proposals is the negligent defendant who has caused a needless injury, or moreover his insurance company which has collected a premium to pay out in the event of such a claim,” Bott said.

“While we welcome the ten per cent increase to general damages for victims, it still falls short of Law Commission recommendations that they should go up by at least 50 per cent.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the MoJ has been seduced by the myth of a so-called ‘compensation culture’ when the government’s own statistics show that the number of claims has fallen in most categories during the past ten years.”

Donna Scully, chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), said she was very disappointed that the government had “clearly disregarded” the legal needs of the 675,000 people every year who were involved in RTAs.

However, Tim Boyce, dispute resolution partner at Osborne Clarke, said Clarke’s announcement was “good news” for businesses facing claims from individuals supported by conditional fees.

Boyce said it would “almost certainly mean that ATE insurers would come under pressure to price their products competitively, which can only be a good thing”.

He added that the extension of contingency fees would be “widely welcomed by law firms and their clients”.

In a surprise move, the MoJ combined its backing for the Jackson review with the launch of a new consultation on reform of the county courts.

The government suggested the limit for small claims should rise from £5,000 to £15,000 and every small claim should automatically be referred to mediation. The upper limit on other cases at the county court would rise from £15,000 to £100,000.

Meanwhile, the MoJ said the scope of the portal for RTA claims should be expanded from personal injury to include medical negligence and employers’ and public liability, and the top limit raised from £10,000 to £50,000.

A spokesman for the MoJ said increasing the small claims limit to £15,000 would increase cases by more than ten per cent or 12,000 from their current total of 93,000.

A further 10,000 small claims cases would go to mediation if all cases were automatically referred.

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