What do the Jackson Reforms mean to the general public?
The chances are that the majority of the general public will never have heard of the Jackson Reforms. Indeed in a small survey where I questioned acquaintances as to what they knew of the Jackson Reforms none had ever heard of them. Needless to say none of those asked were lawyers or politicians. Asking the same question of the latter groups would no doubt elicit a more positive and knowledgeable response. They would probably be able to say that the Jackson Reforms arose from his year-long review of 2009 into the rising cost of civil litigation. His report of 2010 went on to become the principal tenets of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which was implemented on 1st April 2013 and which has radically changed Civil Procedure Rules with the major objective of curbing the ever-escalating costs of civil litigation. Given that many solicitors, barristers and even judges are struggling to learn the new rules, it is hardly surprising that the general public remains oblivious.
However, if one small word is changed in our title-question and it becomes: “What do the Jackson Reforms mean FOR the general public? “then it becomes more pertinent and easier to answer.
Key areas of reform are in the fields of Personal Injury (PI), Road Traffic Accidents (RTA), Employers’ Liability and Public Liability Claims. Basically the reforms have aimed to reduce solicitors’ costs by clarifying rules and speeding up procedures. The biggest changes for clients relate to how costs are calculated. For example, lawyers are no longer able to recover success fees and ATE (After the Event) insurance premiums from losing defendants. Payment of lawyers, always the biggest worry for impecunious litigants, will be allowed through contingency fees replacing C.F.A,’s and new Damage Based Awards. In PI cases success fees have been capped at 25% of damages and in RTA cases the cap for claims has increased to £50,000. Rules are now much more stringent and budgets must be prepared and approved at set stages. Such budgets are designed to ensure proportionality of costs to value of claims. Probably a best known aspect of the Jackson Reforms is that they come at a time of the virtual disappearance of government legal aid. Addressing how litigants can fund their litigation, the Jackson Report endorsed and envisaged the growth of third party litigation funding. Previously it had been unclear how far the courts approved of third party funding, but since Jackson was looking for ways to increase access to justice it is clear he had to give it the green light. For the claimant to give up a percentage of his winnings to the funder might be a small price to pay, especially where the alternative might be to abandon the claim.
Lawyers are still attending courses to better understand the implications of the new post-Jackson rules. They must watch as new case law evolves under the new regulations. Only then will the full meaning both to and for the general public be really clear.
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