Casualty risk engineering

Civil Justice Reforms

Government announces revised timetable for roll-out of civil justice reforms

The Ministry of Justice announced on 28 February 2013 a staged implementation of the extended electronic portals for transacting motor, employers’ liability and public liability claims, together with fixed recoverable costs.

Lower fixed fees in the existing motor claims portal (for claims up to £10,000) will be introduced from 30 April 2013. However, the new EL and PL portal for claims worth up to £25,000 will not now be launched until 30 July 2013, at which time the motor portal will be extended to claims of the same value. Fixed recoverable costs in claims progressing through these extended portals will also come into force from the end of July. Disease claims that fall outside the portal will not be subject to fixed costs but will continue in line with the current process, in other words hourly rates based on work carried out.

The abolition of recoverability of success fees and after the event (ATE) premiums will still proceed in April, as will the 10 percent uplift for general damages. Other changes regarding part 36 and Qualified One Way Costs Shifting (QOCS) will also go ahead.

Noting that Parliament will be in recess at the end of July, some commentators have suggested that the revised timetable might yet prove too ambitious and eventually be pushed back until October.

The imminent reforms follow Lord Justice Jackson’s 2009 review of the costs of civil litigation in England and Wales. A fixed cost regime and electronic portal for transacting motor injury claims up to £10,000 was introduced in April 2010. In May 2012 the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) received Royal Assent. This enacts a number of Lord Jackson’s key recommendations, including the removal of referral fees and the requirement for defendants to pay recoverable ATE premiums and success fees.Qualified One Way Costs Shifting (QOCS) will mean that defendants pay their own legal costs on most cases even if they win.