A recent decision in Leeds County Court has caused alarm among some Personal Injury Lawyers.
Yorkshire firm, Raleys were sued by a former client for Professional Negligence. He alleged that they had under settled his claim for work related Vibration White Finger. They had recovered damages for pain and suffering and loss of earnings. But they had failed to recover anything for what is known as, loss of services. This included that need for assistance with gardening, DIY etc.
It appears that there were no meetings between solicitor and client. It was all done by way of forms and standard letters. Unfortunately the prospect of a services claim slipped through the net. The lawyers were at fault because they had not met the client and explained what he could and could not claim.
There is no doubt that this is the right decision. If solicitors take on the responsibility recovering damages for a client, and something is missed, then it is their fault. They cannot excuse themselves by saying that it was all done by post (or email) and the client never mentioned it.
But, following developments over the last year, it is still a worry. The government have slashed the levels of legal costs that victims can recover in successful cases.
The profession has been told that this is straightforward work that does not require high level expertise. We have been told that the way forward is to commoditise the work, so we end up with troops of unqualified clerks who simply input data onto computers. In this way we can all earn a reasonable living. It is in effect an official dumbing down of the work. It all sounds very sensible, apart from one problem. To quote that guru of jurisprudence, Blackadder – ‘It’s b*ll*cks’.
The level of expertise might reduce but the standards stay the same. And rightly so. I can’t invite the public to instruct my firm and then, if something is missed, say ‘Sorry but the person dealing with your case has only just done their GCSEs’.
You can lower the cost but you can’t lower the bar.
I suspect that we will see more claims of this kind. That in turn could have a knock on effect when firms look to renew their indemnity insurance next year. Others might simply say enough is enough, and leave the sector altogether.
This was predicted by many, but it all fell on stony ground.
What we really need is a system where the party at fault pays whatever it costs the victim to pursue the case.
But I am not holding my breath!