25th October 2018

English Justice is like the Cafe Royale – open to the rich and the poor alike.

So it used to be said in the olden days and it had been thought those bad old days were behind us and we could all access the court system and get a fair hearing now.

But think on:

  1. The small claims court limit in this country for most cases is now £10,000. There is persistent talk of jacking it up to £15,000. So why does that matter? It matters because party and party costs rules don’t apply in the small claims court. What rule? These rules – on a case worth MORE than £10,000 if you as an individual win the other side pay your legal bill for you or some of it anyway. Not in the small claims court though – if you win there and you had the cheek to engage qualified legal help from solicitors then the other side DON’T pay and that means: no point in hiring lawyers – not economic. Which translates into: not pursuing the just case you may have. Above I refer to the “individual”. Individuals sometimes want to sue large companies – like you buy some double glazing and it’s rubbish and lets the rain in so you want to sue the people who manufactured it; or you purchase a car that doesn’t work right from day one and you want redress from the garage or car manufacture; or some large scale roofing company charges you an arm and a leg to fix your roof – but doesn’t do it properly. Who are you up against? Solicitors and Barristers – because the large companies have the deep pockets to pay people like that to oppose you. Anyway – in what dictionary does it say that ten grand is a small amount of money? One is tempted to say to the people that come up with this stuff: behave yourself. And £15,000? Is that a small number? Not to most people I don’t think. As a sum net of tax or even gross of tax it is the equal of the annual wage of a lot of people in this country.
  2. So the latest “reform”/”initiative” (i.e. withdrawal of justice) is about personal injury claims – which are not subject just now to the £10k limit mentioned above. News hot off the press: the Civil Liability Bill has got through the Commons. This bill is going to raise the small claims court limit for most personal injury claims from £1000 to £2000 and to raise the limit still further for road traffic accidents causing personal injury (RTAs) – to £5000. Plus which it is going to impose a fixed “tariff” for soft tissue type injuries – for “tariff” read “vanishingly small amount of money you will struggle to get anyway because although you will not be able to hire lawyers the Road traffic insurance companies certainly will”. What is the reasoning behind saying that in an RTA case you shouldn’t have a lawyer? Well here is the deal – according to government: you don’t need to a lawyer you see because cases like this are simple – straightforward. But the RTA insurers WILL have lawyers – why? 2 reasons – number 1 – the system will not actually ban parties to cases from hiring a lawyer and number 2 – those deep pocktets again….

That’s what is on the menu folks at the Cafe Royale aka the English legal system. Don’t get injured; don’t get ripped off; don’t get had over. Cos if you do and you want some legal comeback – fuhgeddaboudit.

Blog by Adrian Dalton, Partner