The organisation representing firms that defend personal injury claims has joined the chorus of disapproval over a new set of court fees.
The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) has warned that would-be litigants will be discouraged from bringing a court claim due to fees announced by the Ministry of Justice last week.
Justice minister Shailesh Vara (pictured) confirmed fees for all claims above £10,000 based on 5% of the value of the claim – a move he said will bring in £120m a year.
Judges have already made public their opposition to the plans and lawyers from both the defendant and claimant sectors this week joined them in condemning the fees.
Nick Parsons, FOIL president, said the government’s contention that increased court fees will not act as a disincentive to starting litigation was ‘unconvincing’.
‘Many individuals and SMEs will struggle to pay the new level of fee to start a claim,’ he said.
‘Ready access to the courts should be a right for every citizen, not a privilege only for those who can afford the entrance price.’
Parsons said the prospect of fewer people making claims will impact on bodies such as local authorities and the NHS who will ultimately have to cover the injured person’s costs.
‘The government may end up robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ he added.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has highlighted the fact that fees will be payable up-front as a source of unfairness.
‘The idea that seriously injured people making higher-value claims are more likely to be able to afford the new fees is outrageous,’ said APIL president John Spencer.
Spencer said the upper limit of £10,000 fees will mean many claimants with the worst injuries ‘simply won’t be able to afford’ to bring their cases.
A letter signed by all members of the senior judiciary in England and Wales expressed ‘deep concerns’ at the increased court fees.
A further consultation opened last week on extra charges for possession claims and general applications in civil proceedings.
Possession claim fees would rise by £75, while the fee for general applications will go up from £50 to £100 for applications made by consent and from £155 to £255 for contested claims. These increases would apply equally to all applicants.
Vara said: ‘If we are to reduce the costs of the courts to the taxpayer, and protect access to justice, I am convinced that there is no alternative but to look to those who use the courts to contribute more, where they can afford to do so.’