Articles From the Team

How does the Autumn Statement affect the Personal Injury market?

I am a personal injury specialist and specialise in the recruitment of claimant and defendant personal injury Solicitors, Legal Executives and Paralegals at BCL Legal. On a daily basis I speak to Lawyers who are looking for move away from their current firms’ and one of the key issues I always address is the reason behind the move. Recently, I have noticed that some of the Lawyers I am speaking with highlight the proposed changes within the Autumn Statement as the reason behind looking. Though they are keen to look there seems to be some insecurity as to whether they ought to pursue a career move at this stage – given the nature of the proposed changes that are on the horizon and how it may affect them.

As many of you will no doubt be aware, in November the Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement - proposed reforms in Personal Injury claims. One of the key changes was the intention to remove the right to general damages for minor soft tissue claims, and to transfer personal injury claims with a value of up to £5,000 for general damages to the small claims court.

Currently, claimants are able to fund their claims with conditional fee agreements and are able to protect themselves from the risk of losing by taking out after-the-event (ATE) insurance. As it stands, you would be able to bring your case through the claims portal with the help of a solicitor, whose fees would be paid by the defendant if you could prove the defendant was negligent in causing your injury.

The APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) argues that the small claims court is designed for ‘’litigants in person’’ - ordinary people unrepresented by a solicitor. Traditionally it is used for settling disputes about faulty goods or services. Personal injury cases are different. They all require, at the very least, an ability to gather the right evidence and the ability to identify the value of the claim before a claim can be successful.

The proposals would effectively remove legal representation for thousands of people injured in minor road traffic accidents. While the government states that these are not complex enough for claimants to require legal representation, many fear that the result will be numerous claimants representing themselves at court, potentially up against opponents such as insurance companies who can afford legal representation.

If the Government increases the small claims court limit, it will result in the claimant losing part of their damages as they won’t be able to recover their costs, which could result in many people abandoning any idea of making a claim. In the small claims court the injured claimant can not recover his costs from the wrongdoer, even if the claimant wins the case!

The government claims that these proposals will reduce the number of low value and fraudulent claims, and that insurers will reduce motor premiums as a result. It expects the insurance industry to pass an average saving of £40 to £50 per motor insurance policy on to customers. However the government has accepted that it cannot require insurers to reduce premiums, so whether this will happen - remains to be seen.

Furthermore, according to the Governments Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) the number of whiplash claims has fallen by more than a third since 2010/2011 – the fact that whiplash claims have fallen for the fourth year in a row prompts the question – how effective is the proposed change in achieving its goals? Many would argue that people who have been injured through no fault of their own are entitled to be put back, so far as damages can achieve this, in the position they were prior to the negligent act. They should not be forced to accept less than that to which they are entitled.

Regardless of whether the Government decide to implement the proposed changes – we don’t anticipate that this will have a knock on effect to firms’ recruiting. Over the past 7 years BCL Legal has always had a specialist recruiter focusing on personal injury roles and it has always been the most heavily invested area of recruitment. Granted, the nature of the roles we recruit for may have changed somewhat – but the fact remains that week upon week – new vacancies are regularly released. So whether it be the case that you are seeking a move out of claimant personal injury or a move away from defendant RTA – BCL Legal can help. Please contact BCL Legal or call 0845 241 0933 for a confidential conversation regarding your current situation.

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