We can take at least one message from a bad Christmas film. Negligence is only going to increase if firms run factory-style production lines.
Despite it being on EVERY BLOODY CHRISTMAS, Santa Claus the Movie has to go down as the worst festive film of all time. With the possible exception of Jingle All the Way.
The reindeer are clunky, the kids annoying and there’s some awful product placement for everyone’s favourite super-sized hamburger chain. None of this is offset by the moment every year when you notice that Rose from Keeping up Appearances plays Santa’s wife. Onslow must have seemed like a bit of a comedown in comparison.
The film does, however, help me illustrate a point about personal injury litigation (almost certainly, this has never been remarked upon before).
Dudley Moore is the swaggering, cocksure elf with a plan to revolutionise toy-making at Santa’s workshop.
Not for him the tedium of elves taking care and time over their work – he wants to churn out the bikes and wooden tops (kids in this film live in a battery-free bubble) en masse, through the factory production line. The elves seem delighted with this, despite the obvious threat of redundancy. They really should speak with their union rep.
Alas, poor Dudley is doomed to fail. The machines break down and screws are loosened, leading to the hilarious sight of little brats falling off their bikes on Christmas. You never got that in Miracle on 34th Street.
A key message from the film (aside from a desire for a Big Mac) is you cannot do things on the cheap without compromising on the quality.
But for personal injury firms there is very little choice. April’s reduction of fixed fees in the RTA Portal from £1,200 to £500 mean there is no wriggle-room for firms to properly analyse the merits of a case.
Employing (and remunerating) those with the skills and expertise to root out the true value of a claim is increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Even if your unqualified staff are first-rate, they will struggle to find the time to meet clients or even spend an hour on the phone. That’s not laziness, that’s the practicalities of the market we’re now in.
We saw this month the latest example of a firm taken to court by a former client, as Raleys Solicitors paid more than £5,000 to an ex-miner who suffered more injuries than they’d realised. The judge noted the process for making the claim amounted to ‘information contained in the questionnaire, the advice in the initial letters and the instructions by tick-box form’.
We should not be too harsh on the firm as it’s certain there will be hundreds, if not thousands of professional negligence claims against other solicitors in the coming years. Clients expect their solicitor to offer a comprehensive service on a budget that is simply unrealistic since the Jackson reforms. The government’s meddling in fixed fees means firms are barely breaking even and having to cut corners. If you pay peanuts, etc…
I can’t imagine there will be hearts breaking across Westminster at the plight of ambulance-chasing PI firms. But that attitude shows a wilful disregard for the biggest loser in this forced race to the bottom: the client.
Not only will they have to deal with their injury but they’ll have to become quasi-lawyers themselves because their legal team simply can’t afford to handle their case properly.
Just like the kids who fell off Santa’s bikes on Christmas morning, they’re about to get a nasty shock. Factory-style processes without proper quality control will always produce shoddy workmanship.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter