Why this ‘Justice’ Bill is just so wrong

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – scarily referred to as the ‘Justice Bill’ – is currently being pushed through Parliament at an unprecedented rate. And it will fundamentally affect the ability of people injured through no fault of their own to claim recompense through the courts.

Injury and disease caused by negligence is still, sadly, part of everyday life. And, in my 25 years of practice as a personal injury lawyer, I have seen the devastation caused at first hand.

Damages in this country are already generally accepted to be inadequate to compensate victims of negligence. But if this Bill is passed, they or their families will be left having to pay for some of their legal costs out of those often inadequate damages.

How can this be right? It means that people with genuine claims will not be able to afford to take their cases on.

Will this save money? Yes, for insurers. Because they’ll continue to take premiums but won’t have to pay out for claims. But not for the already struggling NHS, which will have to treat those injured without being able to recover any of the costs from the negligent defendants and their insurers. And not for the state, which will have to pay benefits which, again, will no longer be recoverable.

Accidents at work have been steadily reducing as employers learn that if they fail to comply with regulations and injure their employees, they’ll be called to account. But if claims for those injured employees can no longer be brought in the same way, what will be the effect then?

Insurers argue that some road traffic cases are fraudulent and, of course, we all want to see criminality stopped – it’s costly for everyone. So by all means continue to seek to improve the way in which cases are dealt with. I’ve spent much of my professional life working with others to streamline processes and thereby increase efficiency and reduce costs.

But denying genuine claimants access to justice is not the way to deal with these criminals. There is absolutely no justification for moving towards what the Government is proposing.

Damaging the system in this wholesale way will prevent claimants from being able to recover all their costs from negligent defendants who have to be forced into court before they’ll pay. This only benefits insurance companies. They may respond to the new system by reducing their premiums and ‘giving back’ money to those taking out insurance. But on past form I doubt it.

I urge those in government who care about justice to listen to injured victims and those who represent them. It isn’t too late. Please think again.

Accidents and Disease, Current Controversies, Frances McCarthy, Medical Negligence,
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