April reforms deadline creeping closer, claimants warned

Weekly whiplash news review: 7 days ended 13 feb  2013:

Those with a potential personal injury claim were warned recently that time is running out before the April 2013 deadline for the new legal reforms is reached.

The government has taken quite a bit of heat for their civil justice reforms, which will go into effect from 1 April of this year. Potential claimants need to bring suit before this date if they don’t want to have to deal with the new changes, experts warn, as the reforms will see changes in how claimants pay their legal costs.

The biggest change will be in how success fees will be paid to successful personal injury solicitors. Right now, claimants entering into a no win no fee agreement with their lawyers – a common arrangement for whiplash claims and other accident claim cases – don’t have to worry about paying their lawyers, as the success fees are paid by the defendant, but after the reforms go into effect these success fees will instead come directly out of a successful claimant’s winnings.

Many legal experts have said that these changes will mean that many law firms will be faced with the unenviable decision of having to limit their choices as to who they will take on as a client. With the legal costs of bringing a claim still quite high, it will only be cost-effective for lawyers to take cases that will have particularly large compensation awards, thus limiting access to justice to those who have valid compensation claims but who will not see their compensation awards large enough to reimburse their lawyers.

The courts have responded to this fear by assuring the legal community that, after the April reforms go into effect, the compensation paid to successful claimants will be increased by 10 per cent in order to help pay these costs. However, legal experts still fear that this will not be enough to sufficiently offset the cost of legal fees and court costs incurred by lawyers.

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