29 August 2012
Incoming Changes to Compensation Claims
A Court of Appeal ruling that will result in personal injury compensation settlements being higher from April next year is a positive step.
That is according to Trevor Sterling at Slater and Gordon Layers who believes this legal reform will be beneficial to claimants seeking damages following incidents such as road traffic accidents.
What did the Court of Appeal decide?
Last month, it emerged that the UK's most senior judges had passed down a ruling through the Court of Appeal that means people who successfully pursue damages through civil action will receive ten per cent more in compensation.
This change comes into effect as of April 1st next year and, as a result, victims of Car Crashes and accidents in Work or Public Places will have the opportunity to receive improved damages sums for their ordeal.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge decided on this legal alteration along with Lord Justice Maurice Kay, vice president of the civil division of the Court of Appeal and Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls.
The reform has been made as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and will also apply to successful claimants in instances of defamation and other cases involving "suffering, inconvenience or distress".
How will this ruling affect the law?
This new act will supersede the current Conditional Fee Agreement, which is a no-win-no-fee system whereby a claimant's legal representative is able to recover a fee of up to 100 per cent of their standard service charge.
Under the terms of this old regime, solicitors were able to claim this fee even after unsuccessful proceedings, meaning individuals could face significantly higher charges for representation than they had anticipated.
However, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has changed the process to a fairer system in which claimants will pay an additional sum to their lawyer if they are successful, but this fee will be capped to a maximum of 25 per cent of the total amount of compensation they are granted.
What will the reform mean for personal injury claimants?
According to Trevor, the Court of Appeal's decision to boost damages settlements by ten per cent came as no great surprise, as the system has been in need of reform for some time.
"What the court did was to have regard for to what was recommended by Sir Rupert Jackson, which will impact on a claimant's ability to recover any ATE (after the event) insurance premium or a success fee from the wrongdoer, this will now potentially be deducted from compensation," he noted.
Trevor explained that due to this change, it was clear that an increase in the level of general damages was required and the Court of Appeal recognised this fact.
"So there is no surprise, but it is good news to the extent that it would have been a travesty if there had not been recognition that the compensation needed to be increased," he added.
On a slightly more negative note, Trevor indicated that the boost of ten per cent is potentially inadequate as it does not accurately reflect the changing landscape of the compensation claims arena.
"It is unfortunate that there hasn't been sufficient focus on increasing general damages for many years now. It is positive to the limited degree that it is better than there being no increase, but whether it is enough is another matter," he added.
What other impact could the ruling have?
Recently, personal injury specialist Trevor spoke about how the findings of research commissioned by Slater and Gordon could change the perception of professionals in his area of expertise.
When it was put to him about whether or not the ten per cent damages ruling will help improve the reputation of such solicitors, he said that he doesn't know because "our view is that anyone who suffers a Serious Injury is more focused on the ability to return to some sort of normal life rather than just compensation".
"It seems to me if we were to focus just on the amount of compensation accident victims get, rather than improving treatment outcomes, rather than Rehabilitation, or enabling people to recover from life-changing events then we would be getting it the wrong way round," he added.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for people injured in accidents through no fault of their own, and most claims are dealt with on a No Win, No Fee basis.
Call our Accident & Injury Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us.
Posted by Chris Stevenson