The need to move away from our John Major and Del Boy image
Richard Powell, Solicitor
If you were to ask a member of the public what news stories they remember from the past week, what would they think about? Chances are, it’ll be about Fergie’s retirement, the three women rescued from captivity in Ohio or the latest allegations against April Jones’ supposed killer.
What I can guarantee with pretty much absolute certainty is that nobody, unless they are a lawyer or a barrister, will be thinking about the reduction of fixed fees in road traffic accident personal injury claims. There will be nobody who’s turned to a friend and exclaim “gosh, I wonder what this means when combined with the new legal Bill that came into effect in April.”
Nobody will be thinking this outside the legal profession because, quite simply, it isn’t interesting enough to be in the mainstream news. I wish the truth was less brutal, but there it is. To anyone outside of the industry, Personal Injury is seen at once as the John Major and the Del Boy Trotter of the legal world. We are either grey and boring, or we are boorish and brash, with none of the lovability of the latter and about as much charisma as the former.
What gets bums on seats in news terms is not how your access to justice may be affected when lawyers in their droves can’t handle your personal injury claim and you have to go it alone (until a spectacularly massive scandal of this nature breaks). It is not even what will happen when hundreds of lawyers and ancillary staff are put out on the dole because of the combined effects of the LASPO Bill, fixed fee reforms or when a form of Grayling’s whiplash proposals are passed. It is personal tragedy. It is outrage. It is the moral paucity of the politicians elected in by an increasingly apathetic population. What most people remember about John Major’s time in power is not Black Wednesday, but his affair with Edwina Curry. The scandal, not the substance.
When one of the biggest shakeups to legal aid came in last month, in the form of the LASPO Bill, a couple of stories came out about the impact the changes would have on Medical Negligence and Family Law cases. There were no stories about how it would impact on people making personal injury claims and that they’d lose a big proportion of their compensation award paying their lawyer’s fee. Nothing about the fact that people with claims that are meritorious but not straightforward would probably not get taken on by any lawyer unless said lawyer wanted to run the case at a loss…and as much as Failing Grayling might expect us to do this, some of us do still have bills to pay. We’re not unlike our clients in that respect.
Even if the small claims limit for road traffic accidents gets raised to £5,000 next year, it is unlikely this will be covered, even though that will effectively end no win, no fee claims in these kinds of cases.
Until the industry starts to be viewed as an interesting, positive force, our stories will forever languish at the bottom of the media pile, going unnoticed and unloved. If we are to move away from John Major and Del Boy, we need to start making Personal Injury Law appealing to the mainstream. We need a new celeb comparator now, before it’s too late. Personally, I’d rather be Daniel Craig, but I’m open to suggestion…
About the Author: Richard Powell is a personal injury solicitor at YouClaim, who specialise in compensation claims ranging from clinical negligence to road accidents. Connect with Richard on Google+ or LinkedIn.