Undersettlement claims will soon be rife in personal injury.
A new, and not particularly welcome, trend is emerging in the PI sector: ‘cannibalism’.
That phrase was coined by defendant lawyer Rod Evans, and it is an apt description of the new industry that is already beginning to establish itself, based on claimant lawyers suing other claimant lawyers.
The fact is that the shockingly low levels at which fixed fees have been set have left margins very tight for claimant lawyers. That will inevitably increase the temptation for lawyers to undersettle claims and get the matter dealt with quickly – and indeed there are already reports that this is happening.
For example, in a written submission to the Civil Justice Council earlier this year – as part of the CJC’s request for evidence from practitioners about the impact of the Jackson reforms – barristers set One Chancery Lane said it was already seeing more instructions for professional negligence claims for undersettlement, against claimant PI lawyers.
It also said it was aware of some PI firms that have begun limiting the number of times a fee-earner can deal with a case before they have to settle it.
So it is no surprise that some PI specialists are starting to wonder whether claims against other lawyers might be a business opportunity that they can’t afford to ignore.
But if you are still not convinced that a new undersettlement claims industry is really springing up, then just take a look at a new outfit called Claim More Money. Its website says: ‘Many accident claims are settled too quickly, without getting the most for people like you, and that’s where we can help!
‘We go back through your claim in fine detail and if we find that your previous solicitor wasn’t thorough enough and your claim was mishandled, we’ll squeeze out all the compensation that you’re entitled to, getting you more money, and we won’t rest until we get you every last penny… All on a no win, no fee basis.’
I don’t know about you, but I find that prospect pretty depressing.
Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine