The UK now has “advice deserts” where people cannot make claims following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act.
The stark assessment has come from Mark Stobbs, director of legal policy at the Law Society, who said that there was no point in asking if access to justice was under threat. “It’s no longer a question,” said Stobbs. “The reforms to civil litigation are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
Stobbs, who was speaking at the Claims Conference on 12 March, held at Lancashire County Cricket Club in Manchester, also attacked the Government’s decision to raise court fees, saying that the reasons for the increases was based on “intellectual dishonesty”.
He was joined as a speaker at the conference by Louise Ellman MP, the chair of the Transport Select Committee, who told delegates that the Committee had received many responses from the public suggesting that the motor insurance industry was dysfunctional.
Ellman also said that she and her colleagues on the Committee had been shocked when they were told about the prevalent use of third party capture in road traffic accident claims.
“We were very surprised to hear that insurers settle so many whiplash claims without even asking for medical evidence,” she said.
Another speaker at the conference, Nicholas Bevan, a legal consultant, gave a talk about incoming changes to the third party motor insurance market, which he said is set for major reform.
Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav d.d.) the European Union is to insist that third party insurance requirement extends to any motor vehicle; no matter what its use; and no matter whether it is used on public or private property.
As a result, explained Bevan, UK law provision in the are was defective and out of keeping with the more generous protection required under European law.
“We have every reason to be grateful to these sensible and pragmatic directives and the European law remedies that enable us to challenge the longstanding indifference of governments and the insurance industry that cynically exploits this captive market for its own ends,” said Bevan.