By: 7 March 2016
PI sector presents united front at Claims Conference

The speakers and delegates at the 2016 PI Claims conference agree to fight to preserve Access to Justice in the face of further Government reform

On 2 March, over 150 delegates gathered at the Midland Hotel to hear a collective rallying cry from an array of expert speakers to preserve minor personal injury claimants’ rights to proper representation and compensation.

The overarching theme of the conference was to help professionals in the sector to better understand how they could stay in business given the Government’s plans to raise the small claims limit and abolish general damages for minor soft tissue injuries – in other words, whiplash.

However, many of those present still hold out hope that the proposed amendments, announced out of the blue by George Osborne last November, could still be shelved.

Martin Coyne (pictured), the managing partner at Ralli Solicitors and one of the figureheads of the Access to Justice Action Group (AJAG), told those attendance that the sector had to present a unified front to Ministers if it had any chance of reversing the Government’s plans. He said that using clear data to challenge the statistics put forward by the insurance industry was crucial.

“The PI sector employs some 60,000 people, more than the brewing industry, and we could all be closed down by changes,” he said.

He was optimistic that a legal challenge could stop the planned reform to general damages.

Other speakers on the day said that there was no need to panic, despite the threat of a vastly changed landscape by April 2017.

Kerry Underwood, from Underwood Solicitors, suggested that there was no reason why solicitors could not start charging 40% fees in some PI cases, while Paul Nicholls, a partner at Nicholls Brimble, said that PI lawyers could diversify and turn their hand to a number of different legal areas. He pointed to his own experience, where he had branched out and taken on a varied caseload, turning the modern legal blueprint on its head and becoming a traditional solicitor able to handle a variety of legal issues.

Chaired by Gordon Exall, a barrister with Zenith Chambers, the conference also gave delegates presentations from Robert Khan from the Law Society, Simon Tunnicliffe from the Legal Ombudsman, Dr. David Pearce from Qualitas Medical Assurance, Cathy Leech from Irwin Mitchell, PJ Kirby QC, from Hardwicke Chambers and Robert Hill, a recorder and retired District Judge.

Other panel speakers included Anthony Hughes the founder of consultancy firm Jackson Hughes, Donald Fowler, the managing director at Premex,Tim Wallis from Trust Mediation, Ed Fletcher, the managing partner at Fletchers, Donna Scully, a partner at Carpenters, Michael Knight from ARAG, and Phil Hodgkinson, the founder of Pure Legal Costs Consultants.

The conference was sponsored by the following companies: Medreport Services, Eclipse Legal, Financial & Legal Insurance, Supreme Costs, CL Medicall Aid, Premex, BMS Funding, Techedia ICT Solutions, piCalculator, Eralis, Independent Living Solutions and First4Lawyers.