Is true justice being denied to personal injury victims whose claims don’t match the criteria used by claims companies? Penny Langden, personal injury and medical negligence solicitor in our Bromley office explains her concerns.

In 2013, following the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson, unjustifiable drastic cuts or sweeping reforms (according to your point of view) were introduced to the funding of personal injury claims. These cuts were intended to address the development in recent years of what the insurance industry claims to be a “litigation culture”.

Fixed costs were introduced for claims worth less than £25,000. This means that however much work a solicitor incurs, they will only recover a fixed amount of costs from the Defendant. The general result of this change was that modest but worthy claims with complicated issues have become financially unviable for many solicitors to pursue. This in turn means that some claimants are being denied any access to justice.

Such claims are now picked up by online claims management companies who pass the injured on to what are often referred to as factory claimant firms. These businesses are able to profit from such cases by keeping fixed costs at a low level and running a high turnover of cases. In fairness to these businesses, they are just responding to market demand and providing a service which may be suitable for certain situations.

However what happens to clients who don’t easily fit into this business model?

The fear is that complicated issues may be oversimplified or overlooked completely, leading to routine under-settling of claims in the interests of fast turnover and recovery of costs.

In higher value claims, although there are no fixed costs (yet), the rule is that only reasonably incurred costs which are proportionate to the damages awarded can be recovered from the Defendant. That rule, which as part of the previously mentioned reforms has recently been tightened, means that there are constant and increasing pressures on firms to keep a lid on costs in all cases. Whilst nobody will want to see a blank cheque handed to legal firms, all cases demand proper investigation to determine fault and the appropriate level of damages.

A case in point – Mr B

A recent case undertaken at Wellers highlighted the importance of instructing a reputable solicitor who, despite the pressure on costs, will properly investigate your case.

We were instructed by a 60 year old gentleman (Mr B), who came to us from a claims firm (Firm X) that was closing down. Mr B had tripped over an obstacle at work, sustaining a soft tissue injury to his knee. It is likely that but for the accident, Mr B would have continued to work for another 10 years. Liability had already been admitted by the Defendant employer. Firm X had instructed a general orthopaedic consultant to prepare a report which concluded, based mostly upon the client’s age that ongoing pain in his knee was likely to be related to pre-existing degenerative changes.. On that basis the Defendant offered to settle at £5,000 and for whatever reason Firm X were advising Mr B to accept. Mr B however was reluctant and sought a second opinion from Wellers.

Upon taking conduct we listened carefully to Mr B who explained he disagreed with the report as his knee kept collapsing and no treating doctor had diagnosed arthritis. The medical file contained Mr B’s complete medical records, which Firm X had not bothered to read. We read the records and discovered a report of x ray taken shortly post-accident which expressly stated that no degenerative changes were evident in the knee. We then instructed a more appropriate and competent lower limb specialist to re-examine Mr B who reported that Mr B was suffering from a detached anterior cruciate ligament. Based on that report we proceeded to recover £50,000 for the client in damages as well as the costs of private reconstructive knee surgery.

This case perfectly illustrates the dangers of relying on firms who for whatever reason may recommend clients to settle too early for too little, without proper investigation of the claim.

You can contact Penny on 020 8464 4242 if you believe you have a personal injury claim and would like to talk it through.