The peer leading the government’s review of the ‘compensation culture’ said this week that he is ‘ashamed’ of some personal injury lawyers in respect of how they advertise their services.
Addressing the Conservative Party conference, Lord Young of Graffham (pictured) claimed that some personal injury advertising offers ‘a free lottery ticket where you win as you enter’.
Young said that his forthcoming report on health and safety legislation ‘runs no risk of being pigeonholed’, and will become government policy. Prime minister David Cameron has asked him to stay on after his report is published to help implement the changes, Young said.
Young’s report, which was due to be released at the end of the summer, is now expected to be published shortly. In September, Gazette sources suggested that Young would not seek to ban PI TV advertising, but would instead call for restrictions.
Young said at the conference: ‘As a one-time lawyer, I am today ashamed of the depths some in the law have stooped to, with their aggressive "no-win, no-fee" advertising.
‘We have all seen adverts in the newspapers, on the radio and television, saying if you think you have a claim, come to us and if our solicitor agrees, you will walk away with a cheque for £500, just for putting in your claim. And that won’t affect any amount you might be awarded.
‘This is more than a free lottery ticket; this is a lottery where you win as you enter. What a temptation this provides to someone watching afternoon television.
‘This is not access to justice – this is incitement to litigate. And it must stop.’
Young added: ‘That is why we have a compensation culture. If anything happens to you it can’t possibly be your fault; sue someone, it won’t cost you a penny. That is why health and safety now looms so large in business, in education, in the health service. Not to stop accidents happening. But to stop being sued.’
A Law Society spokeswoman said: ‘Solicitors are frequently criticised for their part in fuelling what is perceived to be a compensation culture. That perception is fuelled by claims that victims seek compensation for the most trivial matters, and that costs paid to solicitors who assist those victims can be disproportionate to the actual value of the claim.
‘While costs can be disproportionate in certain cases, a main cause of this is the actual process which is required by the rules of court and evidence. The Law Society will continue to lobby government against any attempt to reduce access to justice for victims of negligence.’
Muiris Lyons, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: ‘In his bid to address the myth of a so-called "compensation culture" in this country, Lord Young is in real danger of turning the myth into a reality by creating a situation in which people will not be properly protected from the irresponsibility of those who cause injuries through their own negligence. This government must take the lead in stopping misplaced hysteria about the compensation system.’
Meanwhile a report based on a survey of 1,600 people published by National Accident Helpline last week found that 57% thought there was a ‘social stigma’ attached to making a claim for compensation.