The Law Society has demanded a delay in implementation of the extended portal after the “unacceptable” failure to publish new procedure rules with little over three weeks until it is meant to go live.
The new rules, which cover the extension of the road traffic accident portal to employers’ liability and public liability claims, require secondary legislation before they can be published. According to Chancery Lane, “ministerial sign-off still appears to be days away”.
President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said the society has seen only a draft of the new protocols; while any changes at this stage are likely to be minimal, she said fast-track fixed costs are a major concern.
“While our members will be aware of the required changes in general terms, the precise details are vital for ongoing business. Yet no draft of the new rules on fast-track fixed costs has been published. This is simply unacceptable. For example, it is not clear, even at this late stage, what transitional provisions will be in included in the final version of the new rules.
“Solicitors have an impossible task of advising their clients about procedures and costs liabilities. Many of those clients have an existing retainer with their solicitor which may cause them to incur additional liabilities which they will not be aware of. Clients will have agreed an hourly rate basis for work done but fixed costs may result in a shortfall on recovery if they are successful.”
The Law Society also believes that the government may announce fixed costs for defendants and interlocutory hearings, despite a complete lack of published evidence to support such a move.
Ms Scott-Moncrieff added: “These far reaching changes to civil litigation costs are to be implemented in less than four weeks’ time. The government appears to be hell-bent on disruption, by failing to give the profession the notice they reasonably need. This could have a severe effect on access to justice for many thousands of accident victims.
“I have asked Helen Grant to delay implementation so that solicitors and their clients, including defendants, can properly prepare for these changes and achieve a smooth transition.”