The government yesterday unveiled its proposals for the new fast-track fixed fees – and with the basic RTA portal fee set to be slashed by more than half, they were even worse than claimant lawyers had feared.
Meanwhile, personal injury cases that fall out of the portal are to be subject to fixed fees in line with Lord Justice Jackson's recommendation but at lower levels than he put forward.
The portal fee for RTA cases worth up to £10,000 will fall from £1,200 to £500 next April depending on the results of a stakeholder consultation released by justice minister Helen Grant yesterday.
Litigation Futures has spoken to several personal injury firms that were modelling the work on the basis of £600, and it remains a possibility that the fees will reach that figure after the consultation.
The fee will be £800 for RTA claims worth £10,000 to £25,000 in the new extended part of the portal.
The planned fees for the horizontal extension of the portal to employer’s and public liability cases (EL/PL) are £900 for cases up to £10,000 and £1,600 for cases up to £25,000.
The current stage 3 fee of £250 for a paper hearing and £500 for an oral hearing will remain, and also apply to EL/PL claims at stage 3.
Ms Grant said that for claims which exit the portal, she has decided to introduce “a matrix of fixed recoverable costs based on Jackson’s Table B but amended both to take account of inflation since the table was first produced (in 2009), and reduced throughout by an amount intended to reflect the forthcoming ban on referral fees”.
This is likely to cause significant anger among claimant lawyers as there was no suggestion that referral fees were built into Lord Justice Jackson’s figures.
Where Table B suggested, for example, that the fee for RTA cases that settle before issue should attract a fee of £800 plus 20% of the damages, the government’s proposal is the greater of £550 or £100 plus 20% of the damages. There are similar cuts all the way along the litigation process, with Table B’s figure of £3,250 plus 20% of damages for an RTA settling post-listing and pre-trial reduced to £2,655 plus 20%. The only fees that have been brought over from Table B without alteration are those for advocacy at trial.
In tweets yesterday, the Association of British Insurers hailed the figure as good news for all motorists. “Reduced legal fees strips the fat from system and strikes a blow to the ambulance chasing compensation culture,” it said.