At the spring conference of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), I felt obliged to warn members that the conditional fee system we have worked so hard to develop is teetering on the brink of collapse.

It has been made perfectly clear by the government that its intention was to make the insurance premium taken out in a conditional fee agreement recoverable from the losing defendant – even if the case is settled before court proceedings are issued.

Its position could not be clearer, so why are so many insurers arguing the point? Why do we have to go through the completely unnecessary appeal in the case of Callery vs Gray?

Why do we have to go through the unedifying spectacle of insurers trying to obtain through the back door something they lost in the argument with government?

APIL feels so strongly about this that it is looking to make a submission to the Court of Appeal and take the opportunity to show the broader picture.

If we can't make conditional fees work, then the whole system is likely to collapse. We'll be right back at square one and people on limited means will be denied their rightful access to justice.

Let's not forget that it was insurers that first insisted insurance premiums should be paid for each and every case to enable the new system to work.

It cannot be right that the cost of premiums should be taken from the compensation paid to people who have been injured through no fault of their own.

  • Frances McCarthy is president of APIL.