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As the Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill progresses through the system – due to go through its third reading in the House of Commons on 13 October – Simpson Millar continues to lobby for the rights of accident victims and access to justice.

The Government's decision to push ahead with the implementation of its controversial legal reform has caused widespread controversy - particularly for making it harder for ordinary people and those on low incomes to get access to justice.

Access to justice

Currently firms like Simpson Millar are able to take on cases on a No Win No Fee basis. That means that people who have had an accident which wasn't their fault can seek compensation with little or no risk of ending up with a large legal bill if they lose the case. No Win No Fee also benefits small businesses that find themselves involved in litigation and for important judicial review work when there is a need to challenge the decisions and actions of local authorities.

Instead, the guilty party pays the legal fees - most commonly known as a success fee. Insurance companies are encouraged to engage with claimants and agree a reasonable and fair settlement early on rather than waste time and money proceeding to court. However, if the Government gets its way, No Win No Fee cases could be a thing of the past. Instead, claimants eg injured people could be made to pay the legal fees out of their compensation to save insurance companies money.

Simpson Millar deeply opposes these changes as does Access to Justice Action Group which is fighting for the rights of people who will be unable to claim their rights if the Government gets its way. The consultation process leading up to the development of this Bill has been unfair, flawed and driven by myths, misinformation and bias from the insurance industry. Sadly, the rights of ordinary injury victims have been largely overlooked.

"These reforms go to the heart of the long established principle that the 'polluter pays'. In future the injured party will be required to subsidise the cost of bringing a claim out of his or her compensation," said Peter Watson, Managing Partner of Simpson Millar. "There will be an inequality of arms with insurers able to call on vastly greater resources to defend claims in comparison with the claimant side, anxious to limit their clients' exposure to costs. People with perfectly good claims will decide against bringing those claims for fear of future cost liability. The only winners will be the insurers."


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