Leading personal injury solicitors are looking closely at the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s response to claims that postmaster victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal are being intimidated by defence lawyers. Their interest follows suggestions that seriously injured clients feel similarly bullied and harassed by defendant tactics in settlement negotiations.

It is understood there has been reluctance on the part of claimant lawyers to raise concerns about their clients’ treatment by opponents, because this is considered part of litigation and judges have not been vocal in criticising defence tactics.

But following the Gazette’s report last week that the SRA is looking into correspondence from Post Office lawyers to victims of the Horizon scandal, it is expected that any resulting disciplinary action may embolden injury lawyers and their clients to complain to the regulator.

The Forum of Complex Injury Solicitors (FOCIS), a group of solicitors specialising in acting for seriously injured clients, said the issues raised by Post Office victims will sound ‘all too familiar’ to those acting in PI or clinical negligence.

The group said: ‘It is all too common for the clients of FOCIS members to face offers put in terms that are intimidating to the claimants many of whom are vulnerable, including those lacking mental capacity.’

Post Office

The SRA probe into the Post Office settlement offers has piqued the interest of serious injury lawyers

Source: Shutterstock

These offers frequently include short deadlines for acceptance and the threat of serious cost implications if not agreed. FOCIS said settlement offers are sometimes made prior to either party obtaining all of the necessary expert evidence to make an informed valuation of the claim, or when experts or judges say it is too early to give a long-term prognosis.

Lawyers say settlement offers are made before the defendant had served any meaningful counter schedule setting out their reasoning, and are often set ‘at many multiples below any objectively fair valuation of the claim’. With ‘alarming regularity’, FOCIS says, some offers are made just days before Christmas.

‘There are shining examples of defendant insurers and lawyers whose approach to claims resolution is genuinely collaborative and who do not routinely employ these tactics,’ said the group. ‘However for the many others who do employ these tactics then this SRA probe ought to give you pause for thought.’

The SRA widened its investigation into the Post Office scandal to include the tone and nature of correspondence from lawyers making settlement offers to sub-postmasters. This followed complaints raised by the independent board set up to oversee compensation payments.

In an email to the Post Office last month, the board’s chair Professor Christopher Hodges said victims continue to be ‘confused, intimidated and hurt’ by the behaviour of the Post Office and its lawyers in negotiating settlements and in the continued use of legalistic terms.


This article is now closed for comment.