The suggestion by Laura Kelly that £400 to £500 after-the-event policies are responsible for the ‘mess’ in the civil legal costs system should be taken with a big pinch of salt.
What is missing from the discussion on claimant personal injury solicitors’ costs is the unreasonable stance taken by defendant solicitors on the simplest of cases. Take a recent case of mine against our local council. A road traffic accident occurred in September 2006 between a council van and my client’s Nissan Micra. There was clear evidence to suggest that the defendant driver did not even stop at the scene (hit and run).
Despite this, the defendant solicitors, another Lancashire-based firm, defended the matter to the hilt. Liability was disputed, low-velocity impact was alleged, and the claimants were also subjected to examination by a defendant medical expert. Forensic engineering evidence on impact forces was served, when even to the untrained eye the impact damage to the little Micra was significant.
Five years later (yes, five, that is not a misprint), the matter came to a two-day trial in November 2011 where both claimants were vindicated 100% and each recovered £1,250. The claimants had long since made part 36 offers to accept £1,050 and justifiably also got an order for indemnity costs against the defendants.
The costs? The claimants’ bill came close to hitting six figures, and yes the uplift was 100%, a decision that was also justified with the benefit of hindsight. How much scrutiny do defendant solicitors get from their insurer client when they are responsible for advising the insurer to defend cases such as this one? Perhaps the insurers should stop complaining about claimant solicitor costs and cast an eye closer to home.
Mohammed Patel, solicitor and director, MRH Solicitors, Bolton