Reform of the litigation system
04 I 04 I 11
On Tuesday of last week the
Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke announced that the
government is to reform the costs of civil litigation with
significant changes to lawyers’ fees and court administration. This
follows the proposals made by Lord Justice Jackson and comes ahead
of the legal market opening up to alternative business structures
(ABSs) on October 6th 2011.
A significant change will be to
make claimants using “no win no fee” agreements liable to pay their
lawyers’ success fees. Currently, the losing defendant has to pay
In personal injury cases, there
will also be a cap of 25% on the amount of damages that may be
taken as a success fee, other than those for future care and
Other proposals include expanding
the online system that deals with road traffic accident claims to
include personal injury and clinical negligence cases, up to
£50,000 in value.
There will also be a much greater
emphasis on settling cases before they reach court through
mediation and other forms of dispute resolution with the maximum
value for small claims to be raised from £5,000 to £15,000.
Concerns have been raised by some
action groups and other law organisations that the new reforms will
restrict access to justice for claimants, deterring people from
making a claim.
When asked about this, the justice
minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "We are not talking about ending
'no win, no fee' agreements. We are reversing the changes made by
the last government in 1999. In practice [these changes would] mean
that lawyers will have to consider carefully whether they think a
case will go through and the claimants will hunt around to see
which lawyers are charging the lowest fees."