Time deadline loopholes exploited in road accident cases

Claimant solicitors are finding ways of beating agreed limits for success fees, say senior market sources.

The claims manager of one large insurer, who did not want to be named, said that at least three solicitors were abusing the predictable costs regime laid down last year in a Civil Justice Council agreement for road trafffic accidents (RTAs).

"We're not talking sole practitioner, high street firms here. These are large chains of lawyers who are taking advantage of loopholes," he said.

The claims manager explained that defendants had 21 days to respond to claims in pre-action protocols and for many insurers this time limit was difficult to deal with. "If we miss the deadline by one day then all bets are off," he said.

The pre-action protocol for personal injury claims gives insurers 21 days to reply to the letter of claim, three months to deal with liability and 21 days to make an offer after medical evidence is disclosed.

If one of these deadlines is missed the claimant solicitors can issue proceedings.

Simon Gibbs, negotiations manager with Legal Costs Negotiators (LCN), confirmed that claimant solicitors were trying new strategies. "LCN is already seeing evidence of certain solicitors issuing proceedings at the first opportunity in almost all their RTA claims in circumstances where they would have not done such pre-predictable costs," said Gibbs.