Claimant lawyers have found a way to survive, and insurers are miffed.
In between people being eaten, there’s a wonderful line in the movie Jurassic Park, delivered by Jeff Goldblum’s brilliant cynical scientist.
The dinosaurs have been tethered and artificially prevented from breeding. Yet, as Goldblum ponders: Life finds a way.
It might initially be a struggle to find parallels between dinosaurs and the personal injury sector, but bear with me.
Every manner of obstacle and roadblock has been thrown at lawyers in recent years: cutting off the blood supply through banning referral fees; choking them through slashed fixed fees; and setting the mob on them via a complaisant media.
Yet, as Dickie Attenborough and Sam Neill found out to their cost, some things never die. Life – and claimant lawyers – find a way.
They have innovated, reduced costs and shed staff. They have torn up and redrawn business plans and found a way to make the work pay off. The year of LASPO, 2013, may have been their ‘annus horribilis’. But they have not disappeared.
Indeed, to listen to some, PI lawyers are as rampant as ever. The number of claims, according to some sources, has increased. Savvy claims management companies have boosted, rather than lost, profits. Daytime TV is still awash with PI advertising (with plenty of direct marketing infiltrating websites too).
This week, insurance giant esure threw its toys out of the pram and complained. Profits from motor insurance have dipped by £14m and – wouldn’t you know – it’s the claimants’ fault.
Never mind that insurers have got their way again and again in recent years, and convinced the Ministry of Justice to legislate in their favour. Never mind that The Big Promise, to cut insurance premiums, has proved to be nothing more than a pledge written with invisible ink.
Basically, PI lawyers haven’t played ball. They haven’t given up and withered away. To paraphrase Goldfinger, insurers didn’t expect lawyers to talk, they expected them to die.
Well, they haven’t died. Inevitably the MoJ will act again to shift the goalposts in insurers’ favour. They surely won’t be happy until, just like those exhibits in Jurassic Park, claimant lawyers are themselves extinct.