Government Blunders its way into Possible Judicial Review

neck-braceThe government could be facing a judicial review over a recent set of blunders with reform proposals. The government has been criticised for a number of missteps in recent personal injury reform proposals, some of which have led to the possibility of review.

The government recently unveiled a whole raft of proposals for consultation, which could see significant change to the personal injury sector. Primarily, these would target whiplash claims following traffic accidents, but some of the key measures proposed would also apply to other areas of personal injury law such as workplace accident claims. The proposals are quite varied in their nature, but are largely aimed at curbing what the government perceives to be an excessive claim numbers.

The most prominent blunder that has been revealed is the use of outdated figures in the creation of the consultation document and the setting of proposed levels of financial compensation for minor injuries. The data used for this aspect of the document makes use of old judicial guidelines and therefore fails to to account for an increase made in the Autumn of last year.

The September 2015 revision which the paper overlooks saw a 3.4% increase in financial figures to account for inflation. Perhaps more significant, however, is the fact that there was a much more significant increase in those figures relating to the lowest band of claims for injuries to soft tissue. This group of injuries saw an increase of 20%.

Kerry Underwood, a solicitor, blogger and contributor to a number of major legal publications, suggests that the increase to the lowest soft tissue injury band represents a problem that goes beyond the significant size of the change itself. The kind of injuries that fall into this band, she points out, “are precisely those now under attack by the MoJ as disproportionately high. So the figures that the MoJ think are too high, were thought too low by the top judicial and other experts.”

These blunders, she says, make the consultation paper “misleading and now open to judicial review.”

Separately, the government as a whole has also attracted criticism for its left hand apparently not knowing what its right is doing. Much was made of the proposed reforms to curb whiplash claims being designed to result in a reduction in insurance premiums, said to equate to £40 a year for the average motorist. Law-abiding motorists bearing the cost of excessive, frivolous, or fake injury claims was stated as a justification for the need to introduce such reforms, and it was said that insurers had already promised to pass on their savings. However, within days of the Ministry of Justice beginning consultations, the Autumn statement saw the Treasury an increase to insurance premium tax, which many took to be a measure running counter to personal injury reforms and likely to soften or eliminate the promised reduction in premiums.

Update on Jackson Reforms

There is still so much controversy raging as to whether the Jackson reforms are indeed a set of logical proposals that will bring balance back to a system where costs of injury compensation claims seem to be spinning out of control, or if these will just make it harder for individuals to gain access to the justice they deserve after a wrong has been done to them.

Jackson Reforms to Change Everything Come April

The Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) together with the new Civil Procedure Rules, will bring into full effect most of the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson this April. And with April just little less than just four months from now, it is already very obvious that the post-LASPO litigation world will be radically different from the one that lawyers have already been accustomed to for more than a decade now.

Jackson Reforms and the Great Changes it will bring to the Legal World

With the new rules on both cost and case management rules, damages-based agreements (DBAs), referral fee bans, end to after-the-event insurance premiums recovery, and qualified one-way costs shifting set to be implemented this April, the legal industry will indelibly be reshaped for many years to come. One thing that no doubt will happen is the staggering impact that the reforms will have on the business model wherein many law and legal firms are being run. The ability to retrieve the success fee from a defendant who lost the case has changed everything that one can think of in this field.

Another thing that will definitely be gone a little less than four months from now is the recoverability of insurance policy premiums that clients have taken out in the event that they lost the case and were deemed liable for any legal costs. Personal Injury (PI) solicitors and practitioners are definitely going to face severely difficult times ahead of them. Sue Nash, founder of Omnia and a veteran costs lawyer, predicted that ‘personal injury fee income will reduce by 25 to 50 percent over the next two to three years’.