At that time, legal aid was available for personal injury claims with the decision to remove it coming into effect in 2000.
The early nineties also saw a wave of reforms known as the Woolf reforms brought in the aim of making claims less adversarial by promoting co-operation between the parties and encouraging parties to work together to avoid litigation by putting them as far as possible on an equal footing. These reforms introduced the Civil Procedure Rules which now govern all civil litigation and continue provide a framework for resolving disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The rules have undergone numerous updates since their inception and continue to be updated regularly to ensure they remain relevant and are adapted to take into account various factors including developments in technology to allow the use of email and web-based systems.
One of the most significant reforms introduced in my comparatively short time at the firm is the introduction of the reforms brought in by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 which came into force on 1st April 2013 which (among other things) expanded the scope of claims subject to a fixed costs regime to all road traffic accidents valued up to £25,000 and the introduction of a fixed costs claims portal process for all Employers Liability and Public Liability cases valued up to £25,000 from 31st July 2013.
These changes meant that suddenly lawyers found themselves having to balance the necessary work to get the right result for the clients with a fixed sum which takes no account of the difficulties or complexities that can arise during a claim.
One size does not fit all
No two claims are ever the same, just as no two people are the same and these reforms have completely disregarded this fact creating a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with personal injury claims valued under £25,000.
The majority of clients have never had any experience in this area at all; I have lost count of the times I have been told by clients ‘I have never done anything like this before, I don’t know what to do’ and in those situations we would be failing in our duty to our clients if we did not take the time to explain the process of a claim and how the process applies to them as an individual and advise them properly. Although the world has changed a lot in the past 40 years, the amount of support and advice needed by a person who has been involved in an accident, however serious, has not.
The future remains uncertain with ongoing consultations and proposals for further reform relating to expansion and reform of the fixed costs regime and a potential increase of the small claims limit for road traffic accidents threatening to restrict an injured person’s access to justice even further.
Whatever the future holds however, one thing is certain – I know Hodge Jones & Allen will continue Fighting for What’s Right, just as it has for past 40 years.