Lord Justice Jackson's reforms to litigation costs are just one set of proposals under consideration this Valentine's Day
More proposals than usual are being made on Valentine’s Day this year but I doubt that any I am thinking of have been romantic.
However, with today (14 February) being the closing date for responses to the Ministry of Justice’s latest consultation on Lord Justice Jackson’s litigation costs reform proposals, there will have been a fair amount of passion in evidence, I expect.
The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL), in common with other representative organisations, law firms and interested parties, will now have to wait until mid-May for the MoJ’s answer, in the form of published conclusions. What will almost certainly follow will be further detailed discussion with key stakeholders on the implementation of whatever is decided.
It is clear from the meetings I and other members of the FOIL executive have attended is that the status quo is not an option. We can all expect a period of significant change over the coming months as the government drives forward its agenda.
Jackson isn’t the only area of contention. I recently attended a fascinating roundtable discussion on third-party assistance hosted by Insurance Times. While there remain strongly divergent views on the appropriateness of third-party “capture”, it seems to me that any argument over potential conflict would easily be addressed if there were a common valuation to all for general damages.
The Civil Justice Council has said it will take forward a working group on the development of such a tool but there does not seem to be any clarity on when and how the working group will go about designing it. In the meantime, the ABI is supportive of its members using third-party assistance in appropriate cases, as the evidence available does not support the view of the claimant community that the injured claimant gets less in damages if they deal direct.
If anything, previous studies have shown they recover slightly more. As part of an overall review of civil litigation, we may well see a growth in third-party assistance as a way of providing fair compensation speedily to an injured victim.
No one wants to short-change genuine claimants. In the interests of everyone, any reforms should facilitate a more efficient, cost-effective and cost-proportionate way of working, which gets help to where it’s needed fast and in such a way that insurers’ liabilities are contained. That will mean premiums can stay within the scope of ordinary people.
Tim Oliver is president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (Foil).