The new chair of MASS, Susan Brown, has said that the claims playing field has never been level, and is now far too skewed in favour of insurers.
Speaking at the MASS Annual Conference on 7 November, Brown said that the massive reduction in recoverable costs that has resulted from new fast track fixed fees had left claimant lawyers with no option but to exercise their right to deduct up to 25% from the claimant’s damages. She said that this had had no effect on the levelness of the playing field.
“The playing field wasn’t level and still isn’t,” she said.
“But more importantly, while the insurance industry may be playing poker with a huge stack in front of them, claimants aren’t playing a game at all. They are merely trying to sort their lives out. The abolition of recoverability has made sure that insurers pay out less per claim, and that claimants do not recover full compensation.”
“The concept (idea) that injured people could possibly have an unfair advantage over insurance companies, with their extremely deep pockets and a large book of claims across which to hedge their bets, is ludicrous,” she said.
Brown also attacked the widespread use of the term “low value” claims, saying that it was now used in a sweeping way to suggest that the claims were of little importance.
“But these are claims up to £25,000 and include some claims involving permanent injury or disease, and fatalities. They are certainly not trivial to the claimants or their families,” said Brown.
But to lawyers, she said, they were now claims that they needed to risk assess, taking into account what it would cost us to run them, and what the prospects of success were.
“In other words, the current regime makes it less likely claimants will have access to justice,” she said.