Personal injury lawyers have expressed concern after it emerged that Channel 5 is considering a Dragon’s Den-style TV programme in which potential claimants try to persuade a panel of lawyers of the strength of their claim.
The channel’s in-house development team has been contacting solicitors who could be on the panel in a pilot episode, although the programme has not yet been commissioned.
According to the letter: “Members of the public (potential claimants) would attend a clinic like setting and then discuss their cases with four of the UK’s leading personal injury/negligence lawyers. These cases would range from personal injury to medical negligence to consumer complaints and small claims.
“The contributor presents their case individually to the each of the lawyers, along with any evidence – photographs, home video, medical reports etc. It is here that the lawyers have the chance to question the claimant and establish the true evidence of the case.
“The lawyers must be ruthless in their pursuit of the truth if they’re going to weed out the genuine, watertight cases of real affected claimants from those who are unreasonable, mislead or simply chancers trying their luck.”
The lawyers would then tell the claimant how much could the claim be worth and whether any of them willing to take it on.
Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the body had been trying to persuade TV companies to film a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the claims process in a bid to dispel misconceptions about it.
However, on the basis of the Channel 5 letter, he said it looked like the aim was to provide light entertainment: “I just don’t see how this format lends itself to what is a serious subject,” he said.
A spokesman for the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, again commenting on the basis of the letter, said: “The format of the programme appears to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between lawyers and their clients, how evidence is gathered in personal injury claims, and generally what we do to investigate and build a claim.
“That being the case it seems highly unlikely that any discussion of a potential personal injury or clinical negligence claim within this format could be meaningful.”
The letter did emphasise that the format is “not set in stone and we will be refining the concept based on the realities and practicalities of the industry”. Legal Futures has been told that the aim is to educate rather than trivialise.
A Channel 5 spokeswoman said she could not comment on shows that have not been commissioned.