Criticism for Justice Secretary’s “no win no fee” restrictions

The introduction to a green paper that recommends restrictions to so-called “no win no fee” litigation arrangements in an effort to reduce the costs of civil litigation has been criticised by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

The introduction, which was penned by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, prompted responses from several personal injury lawyers that doing so would put an undue burden on those accident victims with very little resources, which would be most in need of the no win no fee accident claim programme.

The key proposal of the green paper is an abolition of the ability to recover success fees and any costs associated with a claim in an agreement using the “no win, no fee” scheme.  This means that a claimant is responsible for paying the success fee of their lawyer.

Such a move would encourage claimants to take a more active role in the costs accrued on their behalf in the pursuit of their claim, according to Mr Clarke.

However Muris Lyons, president of the APIL, stated that the only people who would benefit from such a proposal is both the negligent party and his or her insurer, since they had collected a premium in the event of the payment of such a cost becoming necessary.

Mr Lyons added that any proposal to increase compensation awards in order to offset the efficacy of this move is a so-called “white elephant” due to both the underperforming nature of current damages awards, which have never been increased as recommended by the Law Commission, and also the proposed increases not necessarily covering the costs that would be borne by the injured party, which would leave them worse off than when they started.

Those who are most likely to be affected would be people suffering catastrophic or serious injury where the damages involved are quite high, according to Mr Lyons.

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