New APIL chief: Falling PI damages “an affront to justice”

Dalyell: Striking a balance between campaigning and dialogue

Trends in personal injury claims since LASPO, with damages falling, are an “affront to justice”, the new president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has claimed.

Gordon Dalyell also laid out the association’s campaigning priorities, covering issues such as bereavement damages and extending the Mesothelioma Act.

Mr Dalyell, a partner at Digby Brown in Edinburgh, became APIL’s 22nd president – and first from Scotland – last week.

In a wide-ranging speech, he observed how the government has said the Civil Liability Act reforms were essential to bring down premiums.

“Yet, even before those are anywhere near coming into force, we have seen a constant reduction in the number of claims over the last five or six years to the point where they are currently 15-16% lower than in 2013/14.

“From the ABI’s own figures, we see, quarter on quarter, a reduction in what is paid out for bodily injury claims.

“Perhaps one of the most concerning developments is the recent research from Fenn and Rickman, provided as part of the recent LASPO review, which confirms that the awards in damages claims over £25,000 have actually decreased since 2013, by some 17%.

“Their conclusion is that this is a clear consequence of the cultural changes brought about by LASPO.

“Let’s just think about that for a moment, since the implementation of LASPO reforms, there have been fewer claims, less paid out, but injured people are receiving less in damages.

“That is not access to justice. That is an affront to justice.”

Mr Dalyell told members that there was a “balance to be struck between campaigning and dialogue” – APIL has been criticised at times for not campaigning effectively enough against the reforms.

“You need to be in the room to take part in the discussion. APIL have spent many years building relationships with civil servants and politicians,” he argued.

“We don’t always get what we want but we do have the opportunity to try and influence. The current whiplash reforms are an example…

“What we know from almost thirty years’ experience is that it is the small gains that count. We are not going to overturn whole pieces of legislation once a government has made up its mind. Bold statements to the contrary are simply hostages to fortune.”

Issues APIL will be campaigning on in the coming months include bringing bereavement damages in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, in line with the Scottish system of each individual claim of close family members being valued on its own merits, rather than a narrower group of claimants receiving a fixed sum.

Mr Dalyell said APIL would be looking “very carefully” at how new discount rates were set in both England and Wales, and Scotland later this year, and monitoring their impact.

“We will continue to assess the government’s plans, if they can be described as that, for the withdrawal from the EU, and how they affect injured people,” he added.

“At the heart of our thinking and approach is to ensure, insofar as possible, legislation reflecting improving health and safety standards, together with other provisions such as the motor directives, set out over the years by the EU, is maintained.”

He said APIL wanted an extension of the Mesothelioma Act to help other people who suffer asbestos-related diseases, as part of its ongoing campaign for an employers’ liability insurers bureau.

“It is 73 years since the establishment of the MIB. The time has long since passed for the equivalent body to be set up to deal with claims of people injured through no fault of their own at work, and unable to recover fair recompense, due to the failure of their employer to take out insurance.”

Sam Elsby, a consultant solicitor at Brighton firm Dean Wilson, became APIL vice-president.

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