Legal aid bill defeated in House of Lords for ninth time

The House of Lords has shot down the ninth iteration of the new legal aid bill in a recent vote by peers where issue was taken with mandatory telephone advice line use, personal injury compensation experts recently revealed.

The bill, which has sought to shave £350 million a year in savings from the Ministry of Justice’s civil legal aid budget, has faced criticism and resistance from both ministers and accident claim experts alike.  Now, the central reforms of the bill, such as the limitations to contingent fee arrangements commonly made by no win no fee solicitors, will leave ministers having to reconsider the bill yet again.

The latest go-round found MPs issuing the warning that making it a requirement for those with speech impediments or learning disabilities to seek aid over the phone could be counterproductive.  Former Paralympic athlete, Lady Grey-Thompson, called it a matter of false economy, as these classes of Brits would need an in-person interview in order to hear their case fairly.

She also said that filling in a form on the internet or switching all applications to a telephone interview would only result in a minimal savings of  around £1 million to £2 million  on an annual basis, if even that.  Grey-Thompson said that while telephone operators would receive a modicum of training, the proper legal training will be completely nonexistent, leading to negligible savings while also risking the exclusion of the vulnerable from access to justice.

MPs urge tougher medical tests in whiplash claims

MPs have said that drivers need to undergo more rigorous medical testing when looking for compensation in cases of whiplash, industry experts recently reported.

The Transport Select Committee has made the recommendation that whiplash diagnoses need to be subject to higher levels of scrutiny, as too many unscrupulous no win no fee solicitors are exploiting the subjective standards as they exist currently.  MPs also urged insurers to abandon premium-inflating practices in regards to personal injury claims, such as selling personal details of their customers to third parties.

In order to reduce motor insurance costs, the report also recommended a cross-departmental ministerial committee.  The Transport Select Committee chair, Louise Ellman, remarked that insurers find it difficult to challenge whiplash claims due to their highly subjective nature in regards to diagnosis and that whiplash claims are primary reason premiums were increasing (see whiplasclaim.org.uk).

Claim levels have doubled over the past decade as solicitors rake in the cash from the increased number of whiplash claims, the report said.  Accounting for more than 7 out of every ten injury cases, whiplash claims have increased insurance premiums by 16.4 per cent in 2011, according to the committee.

Even though accident casualties on the road have fallen by one third over the past ten years, the number of claims made have ballooned by nearly double.  Between 2000 and 2005, official figures say there were only 395,735 such claims every year, yet there were nearly 791,000 claims in 2011 alone.

The bar needs to be raised in regards to whiplash compensation cases, the report recommended, adding that legislative efforts may be needed if claims numbers do not undergo a significant decline therein.

Victorian era personal injury claims put on exhibition

New data on Victorian era personal injury claims has recently been discovered in Norwich, with researchers putting several interesting – if bizarre – legal documents on display for an exhibition.

These personal injury compensation documents – dating back as far as the 1860’s – reveal that Brits were making accident claims well before the advent of the much-reviled ‘no win no fee’ solicitors and their conditional fee agreements.  Some of the more noteworthy claims include a £7 payment in compensation to a travelling salesman after he was administered a blow to the head – the amount today would be approximately £400 in today’s economy, experts say.

Other documents reveal how a farmer that had been knocked over by a sheep was awarded £100, or about £8,000 in 2011 pounds.  Meanwhile the employers of a man who perished after falling into a vat of boiling liquor awarded his family the lofty sum of £1,000, which would have been £80,000 today.

In 1862, a ‘ratter’ who suffered a bite from his own ferret was awarded £82, which would have been approximately £6,800 in a modern British economy.  Meanwhile, back in 1878, an innkeeper from Handsworth, Birmingham, was given a £1,000 compensation award after he mistook a ‘poisonous potion’ for a beneficial medicinal draught to aid in sleeping.

Finally, an 1896 document revealed that a twenty one year old Winston Churchill took out an accident policy.  At the time of the former Prime Minister’s death in 1965, the policy was still in place, and documents indicate that the well respected, legendary politician never submitted even one claim on the policy in the nearly 70 years he was in possession of it.