The government has around three months to sort the detail on personal injury reform if it wants to hit the April 2013 target, the president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) has warned.
The prediction by Don Clarke came as family law solicitor Helen Grant – newly appointed as a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) – was given the brief of seeing the Jackson reforms through to implementation.
Writing on his firm Keoghs’ website, Mr Clarke said the Court of Appeal’s decision to reopen its ruling in Simmons v Castle – on the 10% increase in damages – “cannot bode well for the broader roll out of the Jackson reforms where Sir Vivian [Mr Justice] Ramsey has already been talking of various ‘anomalies’ which will doubtless impact on a smooth transition to a reformed claims process.
“FOIL believes that claimants and compensators alike need and deserve clarity on the reforms in order to prepare for change. Compensators in particular need this clarity in good time so as to be able to ready themselves operationally and to inform them on key and sensitive issues such as pricing.”
He said that with seven months to go to implementation, “we still await some considerable detail from the MoJ on various aspects of the Jackson reforms”, such as part 36, qualified one-way costs shifting and the scope and level of fixed costs.
Mr Clarke argued that the level of legal costs “drives all the behaviours within the current dysfunctional system” and urged the government to start work on re-populating the “Jackson Table B” matrix of fixed costs for fast-track personal injury cases pre- and post-issue.
He concluded: “We have probably three months to sort the detail on personal injury reform. Let us hope that a new MoJ team will revitalise and re-energise the debate and drive the work on to a successful conclusion.”
The portfolios for the new MoJ team were announced on Friday, and Ms Grant’s include civil law and justice, courts and tribunals, and legal services and claims management regulation. She largely inherits the areas previously covered by Jonathan Djanogly, except for legal aid, which has moved to Liberal Democrat Lord McNally, who piloted the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 through the House of Lords.
Mr Clarke said he does not share the dismay of others that the new Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, is not a lawyers – “I hope that he brings a common sense approach to the issues that face him and without the ‘baggage’ of a former practising solicitor or barrister”.