The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) have this afternoon issued a judicial review of the government’s proposal to cut the basic RTA portal fee from £1,200 to £500.
The government’s proposals – announced in November, with the consultation ending on 4 January – have been strongly criticised for not providing an evidence base to justify the fee cuts, and also the new levels for the extended portal to higher-value road traffic claims, and also employer’s and public liability cases worth up to £25,000.
As a result of the threat of judicial review from APIL and MASS, the government is already ‘reconsidering’ the date of the introduction of the extended portals, but appears to be pressing ahead with cutting the fees for those RTA cases worth £1,000 to £10,000 already in the portal.
In a statement, the pair said they were “concerned that the decision was made at an insurance summit held by the Prime Minister where the government consulted insurers but not those representing the interests of victims and claimants.
“We also challenge the fact that the government appears to have accepted the insurance industry’s analysis that, if referral fees are banned, solicitors will make an unacceptable level of profit from cases run through the scheme.
“Fees in the current scheme were not calculated on the basis of referral fees. So, by consulting only with insurers, the government’s proposal to make these cuts is both unfair, and based on a misinterpretation of the facts.”
They said that underpinning the judicial review is the shared concern of both organisations that the proposed cuts will make running cases through the scheme unaffordable. “Victims will find it difficult to obtain independent legal advice and will in turn be forced to negotiate with insurers for the compensation they need. With the vast majority of injured people having no knowledge of what their injuries are ‘worth’ in terms of damages, such negotiations will be biased in favour of the insurers and their shareholders.”
In response to the judicial review application, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have consulted on changes intended to ensure claims are handled quickly and efficiently and accident victims with genuine cases can be compensated as soon as possible.
“These changes, along with our wider reforms, are intended to bring more balance to the system, make lawyers’ costs proportionate and in turn create an environment where insurers can pass on savings to their customers through lower premiums. We will publish our response to the consultation in due course.”