Personal injury in the news
While the Law Society announces a rise in practitioner numbers for the first time in nine years, last week’s APIL conference sees new President Jonathan Wheeler calling for defendants to be party to the same test of honesty as his membership.
The legal sector has been taking an honest look at itself for some time and last week’s annual key statistics review from the Law Society showed while numbers of practicing solicitors increased by 4%, some challenges remain. The number of women partners fell slightly, against a backdrop of rising numbers of women solicitors with practicing certificates. The data prompted Law Society CEO Catherine Dixon to say ‘The legal landscape is changing and diversity is improving, but there is still a gender and ethnicity gap for partner positions.’
One day in the year almost guaranteed to generate a minimum of diplomatic quotes or fence sitting of any kind is the APIL Conference, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last week. While introduction of the MedCo Portal was on everyone’s minds, the conference also focused on key issues effecting PI professionals, in particular online dispute resolution and the recent introduction of the new ‘fundamental dishonesty’ test.
In a powerful speech, Jonathan Wheeler asked the audience to consider why defendants were not being held to the same justification in relation to fundamental dishonesty as their claimant peers. Neil Rose’s report in Litigation Futures highlighted several examples the APIL president gave to explain his case, including: “How about the defendant who purposefully sets out to delay a settlement brought on behalf of a terminally ill claimant, because it would be cheaper to pay out on the claim when they are dead, rather than alive. What about a litigation authority that spends vast sums on defending the [sic] undefendable, costing the taxpayer thousands, when it should have apologised and put in place a meaningful rehabilitation programme to help a claimant’s recovery?
“Isn’t that dishonest? Why aren’t such defendant practices also caught by legislation?”
Meanwhile, APIL members also heard the latest questions on costs budgeting with one report in the Law Society Gazette quoting a leading judge Master David Cook who suggested lawyers should consider asking to waive the process, if it was likely to cause an injustice. He certainly spoke from experience. Having handled 220 cases since the Jackson reforms, only five percent had ended in an agreed budget for both sides.
Finally, PremExtra spotted a nice story combination this month to bring a smile to your face as well as being a cautionary tale if you’re planning any marketing campaigns.
First up, the warning: Solicitors were warned by their regulator against any misleading marketing campaigns after the government’s ban on the use of inducements came into force this month. In short, offers of prize draws, cashback, ipads and so on are an absolute 'no no' now, with personal injury firms facing a clampdown under section 58(2) of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
It seems that one rather eager individual felt the government should go one further and stop advertising altogether. The Law Society Gazette reported how ‘advertising watchdogs had rebuffed ‘an insurer’s’ attempt to ban a television advertisement promoting the services of a personal injury firm. Apparently, a commercial insurance broker who wasn’t named in the story, had reported Somerset law firm Harris Fowler, because it’s advert implied it was possible to make a claim for compensation irrespective of negligence’.
After what was most likely a highly pedantic review of the semantics in Harris Fowler’s slogan, the complaint was dropped. As it happened, the law firm had been using the phrase ‘If you’ve had an accident at work, or a road traffic accident – an accident anywhere it’s your right to claim,’ since 2009 without a single complaint’.