We wrote to the Metro newspaper in relation to an Article in their newspaper issue of the 9th October 2008. This Article wrote about the awards and costs paid by local councils:
You are quoting officials from the council blaming the compensation culture created by no-win-no-feelawyers. They contend that legislation needed to be tightened up to prevent false claims.
With respect to the officers at the council I am sure in your research for the article you would have discovered that there are already legislation in place particularly on claims against local authorities. The claim against local authorities arise out of law of negligence and Parliament has given the local authorities specific provisions to defend claims brought against them arising out of accidents on public highways.Â In particular local authorities have a statutory defence on a claim such as these if they are able to show that they have taken reasonably practical steps to safeguard members of the public and that they have a system in place to inspect, supervise and then maintains defective roads and pavements.
In many many cases local authorities and their liability insurers have made decisions on economic grounds to settle these claims out of Court.The principal reason for these often is the attraction to reduce their own lawyer’s fees and settle on economic grounds.
Therefore the rise in claims is not because of the no-win-no-fee system brought in. In fact the no-win-no-fee regulations were brought in by this Government in 2001 under the legalisation known as Access to Justice The whole reason for that Act was to provide increase and improve access to justice to all in the community. Until then access to litigation lawyers was only available to the very rich and those who qualified for Legal Aid. The no-win-no-fee legislation has enabled a vast chunk of the middle-income earners to have access to lawyers without having to pay their fees irrespective of the success of their litigation.
I am not simply writing to you as another Personal Injury Lawyer acting for members of the public. I have in fact until recently acted almost exclusively for liability insurers and therefore speak with some experience and their philosophies.
The bottom line is that we do not have a no fault system of compensation. There are already adequate provisions within the current law for anybody sued whether individually or as a corporate entity for loss and damage that people have suffered either at their place of work on the public highway or in a motor car. If insurers and their council believe that there are false claims then there are specific provisions for them to argue fraud. If they succeed the most important thing that access to justice provided is legal expense insurance. All claims pursued against councils are now backed by legal expense insurance.Â Then if they successfully defend those claims unlike prior to 2001 they will be able to recover the cost of defending these actions. Therefore there are sufficient tools available to these councils not only to defend but also to successfully defend and recover their lawyers fees.
The arguments that you have been referred to by council in your article may have been appropriate prior to 2001 as many of the claims against councils were pursued by those with the benefit of a Legal Aid Certificate. In those situations councils and their insurers often had to make economic decisions that even if they successfully defend a claim as the litigant against them was on Legal Aid there will no realistic prospect of recovering these costs of successfully defending a claim. This is no longer an obstacle in their path.
I am not sure where you are based but I am very near Liverpool Street and would be very happy to discuss the contents of this note or any other issues in relation to liability litigation.
I would also like to obtain your permission to publish your article on our website lawclaim.net. If you were agreeable would you please email this to me so that I can arrange for this to be published.
If you were to give permission please note that alongside your article I will also publish my comments as I have set out in this letter.
ABDUL A HAFEZI
Direct Line: 0207 377 0811
Let’s see if they come back to us!
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