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Originally published by APIL
It’s a popular myth that lawyers are parasites, out for themselves and their own pockets. In fact, if you have the misfortune to be injured, you will realise that lawyers are the good guys, the ones who fight for your rights and get you what you need and deserve in what can be a challenging, drawn out, even aggressive battle with the wrongdoer.
Current Government proposals on slashing lawyer’s fees have caused outrage because the fees proposed are so low that it will become impossible to be able to afford to do the work. Lawyers are quite simply being priced out of the market. It takes many hours of work to settle a case, and slashing fees means that lawyers face making a loss on each and every case.. If any other profession were to face such a prospect, there would be a huge outcry.The prospect for personal injury lawyers is alarming. Many will shrink their personal injury departments or even close them altogether. Many lawyers may face redundancy and unemployment. However, unlike in other industries, these redundancies will not been brought about by the work disappearing. The work is still very much there. Sadly, people continue to be injured needlessly day after day – at work, on the roads, in public spaces.
As yet, there is no drive from Government actually to reduce injuries to bring down the cost of claims. Instead, it is considering putting in place systems which discourage claims from being brought at all. Part of this approach probably comes from misguided advice that the majority of claims are fraudulent. Indeed, the Association of British Insurers has done much to promote this view, with little hard evidence to support it. We absolutely urge insurers to combat fraud but question whether cutting lawyers’ fees is the best way to do it. We strongly believe genuine claimants should still be able to pursue proper compensation with the advice of an independent lawyer.
Of course, injured people can negotiate directly with the insurance company. But is this really in their best interests? Our research showed that using a lawyer increased the compensation on offer from an insurer by up to ten times. And it’s not just us. The Financial Services Authority found that people were awarded just under 275 per cent more in compensation through court proceedings. It’s no surprise really as the conflict is huge. Insurers are commercial organisations looking to maximise profits for shareholders, and reduce the compensation paid out to injured people. This is a key element of increasing their profits.
But redundancy has its costs too. The taxman loses out when law firms close. Unemployment brings a greater burden on the country. The costs of caring for injured people who don’t receive the compensation they need because they can’t find help to obtain it, fall on the NHS and the state rather than the wrongdoer. It’s hardly a vote winner.
So, who will help the victims when all the lawyers are priced out of the market? Who will advise the injured person as to the right amount of compensation? Who will prioritise their needs for rehabilitation? Who will make this a fair fight? Do we really want to lose the good guys?