County lawyer says insurance companies are the only winners in no-win no-fee system revamp

County lawyer says insurance companies are the only winners in no-win no-fee system revamp

One of the county's leading Personal Injury Lawyers has slammed a decision by the government to adopt a new US-style system for handling claims, saying the move will serve only to benefit the insurance companies.

In his announcement yesterday that there is to be an overhaul of the no win, no fee legal arrangements, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the changes aim to reverse an "explosion" in lawyers fees, reduce the number of cases and make the justice system fairer for defendants who cannot afford to defend themselves from no-win no-fee lawsuits.

Under the new system a proportion of the legal fees will be deducted from the claimant's compensation award rather than being charged entirely to the defendant. But Robert Williams, a Partner in the Wrexham office of North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, believes that the only benefactors will be the insurance companies who will effectively receive a windfall as they are unlikely to reduce premiums that are currently based on the no-win no-fee system introduced to replace Legal Aid for Personal Injury (PI) claims many years ago.

"Individuals and businesses bringing claims will incur extra cost by this move," says Mr Williams. "It is not right that someone who is injured and cannot work to support their family should be further burdened by having to try and cut a deal with their legal representatives in respect of sharing their compensation to pay their legal fees.

"No-win no-fee was brought in as part of a cost-cutting exercise to reduce the legal aid spend - despite the fact that PI claims had only a very small impact on the Legal Aid Fund. Contrary to what has been implied by Mr Clarke, that system was not designed to make it more attractive to lawyers but to make it acceptable to everyone, with the injured person having their damages in full and the costs being paid separately.

"The insurance companies themselves are often at the root of problems within the current system and defendants who cannot afford to defend themselves have either failed to take out insurance or have been ripped off by insurance companies who are dodging claims by excluding liability in the small print. A further problem is brokers who sell policies with inadequate cover. For example, I know of a case where a local jobbing builder is facing a dubious seven figure claim from the owner of industrial premises where he did some work. His broker had sold him a contract that insured him for work on domestic properties only."

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