SIX months on from the introduction of the Jackson Reforms, lawyers are still getting to grips with the sweeping changes to civil litigation costs and much uncertainty remains.
A review into some problematic areas of the reforms is already underway through a team led by Justice Ramsey, with results expected to emerge in April 2014.
According to reports from some quarters, certain claimant lawyers believe it is too early for such a review to make any inroads into finding and fixing the key issues.
However, there is recognition from others within the industry that some form of reflective scrutiny is needed.
The arising problems which Ramsey, alongside District Judge Christopher Lethem and Mr Justice Stewart, are looking into include:
- The compatibility of the bill with costs budget form precedent H
- Litigation funding and enabling proportionately priced access to justice
- The lag time occurring when handling case and case costs management hearings
Meanwhile, on the other side of the legal system, questions have been raised over whether the reforms have actually helped or hindered the men and women on the street.
The argument put to the industry is that what now exists is a system which places more weight on limiting the cost of claims than the needs of accident victims.
The reforms were billed as the way to stem the tide of rising insurance premiums, but there are concerns among consumer groups that targeting litigation fees does not directly – or even indirectly – affect car insurance premiums.
As the review into the Jackson Reforms gets underway, however, several prominent figures have added their suggestions as to how it should be carried out.
Among them is Craig Budsworth, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society.
As quoted in trade publication The Post, he said: “Some caution has to be given to the fact further change at such an early stage may well miss some of the opportunities to understand the full impact of the reforms.
“There are so many unforeseen consequences of the Jackson reforms that we are not going to see until a lot of files are brought to litigation in 12 months or more. I welcome what [Ramsey] is doing, but with caution because there has been so much change so far and that has got to bed-in first.”
John Spencer, VP of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) – also speaking to The Post – suggested additional areas need reviewing.
“The regulations for damages-based agreements are in need of amendments to make them workable and ensure they are used by personal injury practitioners,” he said.
Time will tell whether Ramsay’s review into the Jackson Reforms fallout achieves its aims. Until then, problems on either side of the legal divide will continue as the personal injury industry continues to adjust.
In the meantime, those firms that have amended their infrastructure and technology are the ones that will cope best and cater for the changes that have taken place within the claims management industry.