Personal Injury ? Keeping it out of Court
Anyone can make a claim for personal injury compensation provided they have been injured in an accident that was not their fault. Since the late 1990?s there has been a huge rise in personal injury cases, partly due to people becoming more aware of their rights, the clarity of the law and the growing number of ?no win no fee? personal injuries lawyers on the market, who have been drawing people in with their television advertising.
No win no fee means that anyone can make a compensation claim. If they are successful they receive 100% of the compensation and their costs will be paid by the other side (or their insurance company) and if they are unsuccessful then there is no charge. This allows the solicitors to charge up to 100% of their usual fees for acting on a case.
This procedure for claiming compensation for personal injury is to change under government reforms. It is argued that Britain is engulfed in a compensation culture and this is partly blamed on the ?no win no fee? solicitors which have appeared over the last 10 ? 15 years. The moves are being pushed by Kenneth Clark, the Secretary of State for Justice as part of a number of reforms. Mr Clark aims to reduce the huge legal fees charged by personal injuries lawyers, which have soared recently to 42 per cent of actual damages awarded, a huge rise in comparison with the 56 per cent in 1999.
Part of the proposal is to deal with personal injury claims online. This will cut lawyer fees, traditionally based on hourly rates. In further reforms anyone seeking personal injury compensation for smaller sums of money will be prevented from taking their case to a small claims court without trying mediation first in an attempt to keep cases out of courts, thus reducing legal bills for clients, the burden on the public purse and to curb the suing culture. This is likely to be welcomed as going to court can often make proceedings more complex, more expensive and more time consuming and this move will help to promote the courts as the very last resort.
This scheme will be similar to a current online service which deals with road traffic related personal injury cases.? The system allows parties to claim via a website and limits legal fees to ?1,200 or ?1,700 if it proceeds to court. Mr Clark is considering raising the threshold to ?50,000 and to introduce other personal injury cases into this system.
In further measures, it is proposed that winners of no win no fee cases will have to pay their own legal costs out of their compensation money, a move which hopes to clamp down on spurious claims.
The moves, which have not been passed yet, are controversial and have received a mix reaction. Whilst they are welcomed by some, arguing that it will provide a simpler process for people to claim and provide some protection for those being sued, it is also argued that it may lead to fewer people having access to justice.
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