First4Lawyers, the independent legal marketing collective, is planning to launch its own law firm to handle insurance claims arising from road traffic accidents.
Road road traffic accident claims will be subject to the whiplash reforms in May, including a new online portal where claimants can pursue their cases.
Based in Huddersfield, First4InjuryClaims will deal solely with road traffic accident claims, which the organisation says only account for a minority of claims it receives.
The legal reforms mean that claimants with whiplash-type injuries lasting for up to two years and worth less than £5,000 will not be able to recover the cost of using a lawyer from the negligent driver’s insurer.
The difficulties with navigating the new online litigant in person portal, as well as the experience of financial mis-selling claims, indicate that many injured people will likely still want help, according to First4Lawyers.
First4InjuryClaims will launch as an alternative business structure in the summer, subject to Solicitors Regulation Authority approval.
For the past year, First4Lawyers has retained personal injury operations specialist Tony Walker to advise on its post-reform business strategy.
Having previously worked for Walker Morris, Minster Law and Pure Legal in management roles over a legal career spanning 26 years, Walker has joined First4Lawyers on a fixed-term contract.
Walker is joined by Lee Hamilton from National Accident Law, who held positions as head of portal and senior technical manager.
They will build the new law firm, which will initially have up to 12 members of staff in the First4Lawyers head office in Huddersfield.
First4Lawyers has pledged to its member firms that First4InjuryClaims will not handle any other type of injury claim, although in time it could look at similar, fully digitally-enabled, high-volume, low-margin work in non-injury areas of legal practice.
It will handle road traffic accidents that fall outside the new regime, too, because of the difficulty of picking out many higher-value claims at an early stage.
Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, said: “Some of our member firms have told us they are leaving road traffic accidents altogether, while others may offer a limited service, assisting claimants through the portal for a small fixed fee, but without offering advice and guidance. A number have still to decide.”
“But one thing we know for sure is that post-reform road traffic accident work will offer limited revenue opportunities and very small margins.”
“We have never wanted to set up a law firm, but First4InjuryClaims has been born out of necessity. It ensures we are in the best possible position to utilise the First4Lawyers brand for the benefit of our panel firms, who remain at the heart of our business strategy.”