The government must not hinder access to justice for personal injury victims as it takes forward Lord Young’s report on the ‘compensation culture’, lawyers’ groups have warned.
In his report released last week, Young (pictured) acknowledged that ‘the problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is one of perception rather than reality’.
The Law Society said that claims of a compensation culture in England and Wales are ‘simply not justified by the facts’, and ‘should not be used to make it more difficult for people who have been injured by the negligence of others to pursue claims’.
The Bar Council said the government should be ‘mindful to preserve other means of accessing the justice system’ if access to legal aid is reduced.
Muiris Lyons, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, added that Young had ‘missed a critical opportunity’ to ‘dispel the compensation culture myth’.
Young’s report recommended tighter controls on the volume and content of personal injury advertising. He also recommended that the operation of referral agencies should be constrained.
Young said it is his ‘firm belief’ that the government should implement fully Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations on civil litigation costs. One of Jackson’s recommendations was that success fees from conditional fee agreements should no longer be recoverable from the losing party in litigation.
Prime minister David Cameron said that he and his cabinet have accepted all of Young’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, the Law Society issued its formal response to Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs last week.
Chancery Lane warned that piecemeal implementation of the judge’s proposals could be ‘very damaging’ to access to justice. Jackson himself has said that his reforms will not succeed unless they are implemented as a whole.
President Linda Lee said the Society shares Jackson’s views about the costs of the system. But she added: ‘We believe that many of the recommendations require careful scrutiny and significant impact assessments before being implemented. The best way to address this is to streamline some court processes, while ensuring people still have access to civil remedies.’
The Society’s principal responses to the report are: that proportionality is an important objective, but it must not override the need to ensure that people are able to pursue legitimate redress; that proposals to abolish recoverability of success fees and after-the-event premiums are likely to significantly reduce access to justice; and that the proposed qualified one way costs shifting rule may result in satellite litigation and a further disincentive to bring claims.
Chancery Lane also stressed that it remains committed to the principle that injured claimants receive 100% of their claim.