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Understanding the Changes to no win no fee Claims

Over the last decade or more, mainstream media has bombarded us with advertisements for no win no fee personal injury claims. Despite the number of car accidents over the last four years actually decreasing in frequency, whiplash claims have risen by an alarming 25 per cent over the same period.

No win no fee defined
As the name suggests, no win no fee arrangements had no inherent upfront cost to the claimant, while there was still no cost if a claimant lost the case. However, if a case was won, a claimant kept 100 per cent of any damages that were awarded, while the claimant’s legal costs, plus a ‘success fee’, were recovered from the losing side.

The birth of compensation culture
The no win no fee arrangement was brought into practice in 1995, as a replacement to Legal Aid. The intention of the move was to widen access to justice, for those who previously couldn’t afford to pay exorbitant legal fees in order to pursue a claim.

In the early days of the no win no fee arrangement, the government’s new policy had much of the positive impact that was expected. Over the last decade, however, the no win no fee arrangement has indirectly resulted in the creation of a compensation culture in the UK, with people making dubious or even fraudulent claims. The UK has become the whiplash capital of Europe, with the emergence of gangs who make their living from false accident claims, as well as a rise in the number of unscrupulous accident management companies, who derive their income from selling accident data to law firms, who encourage people to make questionable claims.

Inherent dubiety
The development of a compensation culture in the UK has led to accident claims of all kinds being met with inherent dubiety.

The knock-on effects have been palpable. The rise in whiplash claims has driven up the average insurance premium up to unsustainable levels, while those with genuine accident claims find difficulty receiving the compensation they deserve, owing to the inherent scepticism that comes with such claims.
Something had to change.

A watershed moment
On 1 April 2013, the way in which no win no fee claims are funded was fundamentally altered as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act.

From this date forward, claimants still will not be expected to pay upfront fees to cover legal expenses, or be expected to cover the cost of legal fees if a case is lost, but henceforth, the ‘success fee’ will be paid by a successful claimant. This will be deducted from the claimant’s damages and it can be up to 25 per cent of the total damages awarded.

The intended outcome of these changes The change in legislature is intended to discourage manufactured or exaggerated claims on the part of claimants, while also deterring unscrupulous personal injury firms from overinflating legal costs, with the indirect aim of ridding the market of such firms and leaving only reputable operators, such as Co-operative legal services.

By making the claims process more transparent, it is hoped that some headway will be made in reducing the £2.7 million per day that consumers pay personal injury lawyers through their insurance premiums, as well as making it easier for those who sustain genuine injuries to make a successful claim.

01.05.2013. 13:29



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