Any change to guideline hourly rates for claimant solicitors could lead to a review of the fixed recoverable fees for portal claims

The fees paid to lawyers for claims that enter the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) portal could be set for an increase, according to speakers at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar on the Jackson reforms.

The Civil Justice Council’s (CJC’s) Costs Committee is set to publish recommendations for guideline hourly rates (GHRs), the amount claimant solicitors can recover from insurers on hourly rate cases, on 16 April.

And this could lead to the MoJ portal fixed fee regime being reviewed.

Nottingham University head of risk, insurance and banking group Professor Paul Fenn, an advisor to the CJC Cost Committee, said it made sense that the fees be reviewed if GHRs are updated to take account of market conditions.

“The portal fixed costs were based partly on the GHRs, but it’s not just dependent on these,” he said. “If a new set of GHRs are in place it would seem to make sense to relook at the fixed costs.”

One defendant solicitor told Insurance Times that anticipated increases to the GHRs could increase insurers’ claims costs by as much as 20%, excluding the impact of any increase to the portal fees.

The initial GHR recommendations are set to be published on 16 April, with final GHRs due later in 2014.

Court fees increased

The news comes after the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) said it was “very concerned” about an announcement by the MoJ that court fees would be increased.

MASS chair Craig Budsworth said: “MASS is in favour of sensible reform of court fees to ensure that the costs of overstretched and under-resourced courts are covered and the necessary experience to manage cases is maintained. But some of these fee increases are massive. They appear excessive and disproportionately high and will almost certainly act as a deterrent to some claimants in bringing forward legitimate claims.”

The increase could see individual claimants having to pay £750 to make a claim.