Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has announced plans by the government to make large changes to the way personal injury claims made in England and Wales are funded. Speaking to the House of Commons earlier this week, Mr Clarke said that the current No-Win No-Fee agreements which are used by hundreds of thousands of claimants each year would be changed to restore “proportion and fairness” to the claims process.
Under the proposals he announced, personal injury solicitors costs would now have to be paid out of the money they win for their clients, with the amount they could charge being capped at 25% of the damages awarded. Solicitors would also have to recover their success fee – an extra bonus paid for claims which they win, from their client, rather than from the losing side as at present. In order to help those bringing claims to afford their legal costs, a small increase in the limits to the damages that can be awarded in compensation claims will be applied, in the region of 10% for general damages.
Critics of the plans to reform No-Win No-Fee claims have argued that by forcing people who wish to make a claim to fund the case themselves, access to justice is being restricted. Many lawyers, it is argued, will be unwilling to take on more marginal claims as they will be unable to recover their costs if the claim is unsuccessful. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadique Khan was one of those who spoke about his concerns over the planned reforms, saying that; “There's a fear that these plans go so far in trying to keep down costs that some claimants with meritorious cases will find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a lawyer to take their case."