Inter Law – personal accident injury

Ever Since Lord Irvine effectively banned legal aid for personal injury claims in 1998, we have seen a explosion in the number of personal injury claims in Britain.

The idea was that civil and family legal cases had become too expensive to be covered by the state and these reforms would make it the responsability of the individual to fight for justice. It was argued that in the early 1990s Personal Injury claims cost the tax payer only ВЈ200M a year and by the late 90s that figure had swelled to an unsustainable ВЈ671M.

We were told at the time that legal aid would still be provided to those with a “public interest” case and that claims for medical negligence would be unaffected. Ten years on, those promises have fallen completely flat. No legal aid in the public interest has been granted to an individual over a personal injury case since legal aid was substituted for conditional fee arrangements. Worse still, medical negligence claims have also become the plaything of injury lawyers with no public accountability.

This is why private sector companies are being crippled by massive claims for negligence and public school authorities face budget cuts in the face of claims being made against teachers. No lawyer would dare to charge a risk fee of upto 80% in a legal aid case because they would be subject to a public enquiry into a misuse of public money that even Derek Conway would view as obscene.

Today, Personal Injury claims have spiralled significantly over the ВЈ1 Billion mark, which even allowing for inflation, is a amount that stings the eyes. If you were granted legal aid, “no win no fee” was never necessary as if there was a high chance of anyone losing a case, they never would have been granted an opportunity with public money in the first place.

The Law Society slammed the introduction of conditional fees upon their introduction in 1998, they said:”There are many people who will fall through the net. Not all personal injury cases are straightforward, and lawyers may be reluctant to take on complex ones, or where the damages claimed are very high and the cases will probably be fought all the way.”

This is exactly what has happend, with long, drawn out cases running into the millions and threatening the future of newspapers, private business and some public sector organisations. Horse riding schools, driving instructors and sports coaches have all seen their own insurance premiums rise as they become blacklisted as prime figures for a mugging my injury hawkers who know they can slap a massive risk fee on top and never be called to account.

All of these organisations run for profit and while legal fees might be cheaper, the public pays back the difference in their everyday lives with increased prices for the services that have a higher chance of being liable for an injury claim. Schools pay out ВЈ200M in compensation every year, while hospitals payout ВЈ300M. The MOD also now pays out ВЈ300M a year but the Civil Service tops the lot having spent around ВЈ600M in settling claims last year.

This just did not happen when legal aid was available. In 1992, the MOD paid out ВЈ88M with no other public organisation ever coming close to breaking that figure until conditional fee arrangements were experimented in 1995. It might open justice for more people, but the only people who are benefiting financially are injury lawyers. They now win more public money than when they were accountable for public money, fighting under legal aid. It hardly seems fair that public funds should be continued to be bled like this for profit.

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