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The Law Society criticises LASPO reforms

Law justice symbols - gavel and scalesAccording to the Law Society, measures put in place by the government to improve civil justice have simply caused problems by creating an imbalance between claimants and defendants, with few benefits being offered to offset any unfairness.

The Law Society gave its verdict following the government's review of Part Two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).

The assessment of the 2013 reforms was predominantly critical, with the Society claiming that cases now take longer, out-of-court settlements have flatlined, and qualified one-way costs shifting has had a negligible impact.

The recoverability of success fees and after-the-event insurance from losing defendants were both abolished by the act, and new rules were introduced with regards to costs budgeting and banned referral fees for personal injury claims.

Claimants often left under-compensated

The Law Society say that many solicitors typically ask for costs and/or a success fee, which often amounts to around 25% of the total compensation, and in some cases can even amount to more. As a result of this, claimants pay part of their legal costs from their damages and are therefore left under-compensated.

The verdict from the Society says that the government felt the balance between claimants (and their solicitors) and defendants (and their insurers) had shifted too far in favour of claimants following the introduction of reforms in LASPO Part 2, but in actuality the Society believes the reforms have tilted the balance too far in the direction of defendants, and all at the expense of injured victims and their ability to enforce their rights.

Issued claims have fallen according to civil justice data

When reviewing quarterly civil justice data, it was found that issued claims worth £50,000 and above have fallen from 4,780 throughout 2013 to 3,309 in 2017. Issued personal injury claims were also found to have slightly fallen, with 146,000 being issued in 2013 compared to 142,000 in 2017.

Solicitors can be inadequately compensated for the risk taken and the that is spent dealing with complex issues due to the cap on the success fee, even where the client has been charged for costs.

The Society says that it benefits defendants if they take full advantage of fixed recoverable costs when cases proceed to trial, but many claimant representatives have raised major concerns over this by stating that it can encourage defendants to challenge the smaller points, which can cause heavy delays as well as increase costs.

QOCS inadequate replacement for ATE insurance

The society also added that QOCS had proven to be an inadequate replacement for ATE insurance, but claimants usually take out cover regardless. They say this has not altered the way cases are carried out, and there is no evidence that defendants are more inclined to agree out-of-court settlements.

There is an average wait of 56 weeks between issue and trial for fast and multitrack cases according to 2018 court data, with an average of 33 weeks for smaller claims cases. Both have increased in the 5 years since 2013, and this is blamed on the increase in litigants in person since LASPO first took effect.

If you need professional advice and assistance with your personal injury claim, or with any of the many legal services that we offer here at Fonseca Law, then don't hesitate to get in touch with our expert team of solicitors. We're based in Ebbw Vale, South Wales, and can be easily contacted on 01495 303124, enquiries@fonsecalaw.co.uk or by filling in our convenient online contact form.