2020: Predictions for ATE and law

6th January 2020

2019 was another interesting year across the clinical negligence, civil litigation and personal injury sectors. We asked some of our ATE team and solicitor partners what their predictions are for 2020…

What are your predictions for in the Clin Neg, Civil and/or PI sectors in 2020?
Julie Taberer

Julie Taberer

Julie Taberer, AO Advocates: I am hopeful that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will lead to some changes in the law relating to sexual abuse personal injury claims. Their report containing recommendations relating to accountability and reparations contained some encouraging recommendations, including a specialist category for sexual abuse in the Judicial College Guidelines. If this is implemented, this should improve the level of compensation our clients are able to recover.

Additionally, they have recommended amendment to the Rehabilitation Code or a new code specific for sexual abuse survivors. We have wanted the Rehabilitation Code to be reviewed for a long time as it is not currently fit for use in sexual abuse cases.

We want our clients to be able to access specialist help and support as soon as possible and we hope if this recommendation is eventually implemented, defendants and insurers will start responding to our requests, which currently fall on deaf ears in most cases!

Enrique Gomez, DAS UK Group: The PI market is due to have significant change with the upcoming reforms, especially in the small case segment, so our expectation is for that market segment to see significant change. The Clin Neg market should continue its course as in 2019 but I wouldn’t be surprised if the marketed hardened in 2020.

Geoff Silva

Geoff Silva

Geoff Silva, Silva Legal: With the political uncertainty we currently face I am not sure what changes will actually be crystallised in 2020. As part of the government’s whiplash reform programme, it is making changes via the Civil Procedure Rules to increase the small claims track limit for road traffic accident (RTA) related personal injury claims to £5,000.

There has been a great amount of debate about this and the impact for claimants who may well not have any legal representation due to this increase. I am not sure how much effort will be placed on getting this through.

In respect of clinical negligence the thorny issue of fixed recoverable costs has been considered by a working group set up to explore its feasibility. There were several key issues on which no agreement could be reached between the claimants’ and defendants’ representatives.

For claims on the standard track, claimant representatives wanted £8,000 costs plus up to 40% of the damages agreed, whereas defendant bodies settled for £6,000 costs plus 20% of damages. For more straightforward claims on the light track, defendants were prepared to fix costs at £2,000, but claimants wanted £4,500.

The recommended fixed costs scheme, which excludes cases likely to be complex or sensitive, would be built around limited medical records and exchanges of experts’ reports and witness statements. However there was no confirmation as to the costs of obtaining and sorting the medical records.

Claimants in their letter of claim would disclose their case along with an offer to settle, while defendants’ letter of notification would contain more information on alleged liability and quantum. This unfortunately leaves many more questions than those actually answered.

Paul O’Connor, O’Connors: Continuing change, downward costs pressure, leading consumer law firm IPOs, high street law firm failures.

Nicholas Lee

Nicholas Lee

Nicholas Lee, Paragon Costs Solutions: I think we will see examples of how West v Stockport NHS Foundation Trust is applied in practice and I think that the costs management regime, which is now working relatively well, will continue to be perfected.

I am hopeful for no major reforms and I think that government, whoever that may be, should have enough on their plate for 2020.

John Durbin, DAS UK Group: No doubt the PI whiplash reforms will have a huge impact on the PI market in 2020. What is yet to be known is whether the proposed date of April 2020 will happen or if they will be pushed back to October.

I think when it does finally happen we will begin to see the PI market contract considerably. We have already begun to see law firms looking to diversify into other areas of law such as clinical negligence or moving away from the PI market altogether and focusing on areas such as financial misselling.

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