With the industry changing at breakneck speed, the personal injury and insurance claims profession has endured a busy and turbulent year. PremExtra reports on the biggest stories of 2013 so far…
For the personal injury sector the first week back from holiday in January began with some difficult news as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers found the majority of practices expecting to make cuts over the course of 2013. A report from APIL revealed how 118 out of 155 practices confirmed they were considering reducing their head count, while one in six said they would stop doing PI work under £25 000 if the proposals remain unchecked.
The next few months were to be characterised by the opposing sides in the reform debate locking horns, beginning with APIL and MASS commencing judicial review proceedings against the new fixed fees regime…
We didn't have to wait long to witness the claimant representatives' day in court, as the following month saw Court number 1 at the RCJ hold the hearing as MASS and APIL took the MOJ on over the legality of the reduction in fees. As legal journalist Rachel Rothwell said, "Twitter really came into its own" as the social network buzzed with anticipation over the hearing. For those hitting their 'refresh' button at around 4pm that Friday afternoon to find out the latest updates from reporters at court or onlookers in the gallery, it was a case of the sublime to the ridiculous. At one point, the court stenographer apparently went AWOL and the decision was delayed, adding to the tension still further.
In the end for the claimant lobby however it was to no avail as the court found against them and judged that the decision had been arrived at legally. With an instant reaction from Chancery Lane, Desmond Hudson, CEO of the Law Society said: "We remain deeply unhappy with the new recoverable costs rules and the process by which the Government made its decision. However it was clear that the decision, however unfair we considered it to be, was going to be difficult to challenge. We will continue to impress upon Government the need to ensure that those injured through no fault of their own need to be able to seek redress, without putting themselves in severe financial difficulties."
The insurance industry has remained largely 'on the hook' throughout the process of legal reform, and nowhere was this more apparent than when PremExtra reported how the Prime Minister himself declared victory on premiums. David Cameron confidently told reporters at a briefing in Downing Street: "We have helped to reduce car insurance premiums by reforming 'no-win, no-fee' agreements". Unfortunately, this statement received a luke-warm response from underwriters, who suggested the reductions would be far more modest than the 15-20% being bandied around by a triumphant media.
At the same time Justice Minister Helen Grant appeared to be attempting to build bridges with her counterparts in the legal sector, telling them that she 'heard the pain' of personal injury professionals. Needless to say, this remark prompted angry responses by readers of the Law Society Gazette.
Premex once again took up the baton as policymakers continued their evidence gathering process during May and June. First up, Premex Services Managing Director Donald Fowler explained is views on the future of medical evidence. Then, Premex Group CEO Dr Simon Margolis was invited by the Transport Select Committee to give a statement to MPs on the role of medical evidence in the personal injury process.
This inevitably led to the response by the TSC including recommendations based on the evidence provided by Premex and various other experts. Premex welcomed the publication of the review with Dr Margolis, agreeing that it contained a number of ideas which would make the medical reporting process more robust to the benefit of claimants and defendants alike.