The recent hike in court fees is a concern to many. Indeed
Lord Dyson spoke at the CILEX presidential dinner of his real concerns for
access to justice. Can the seriously injured claimant, unable to work, really
be expected to find £10,000 up front to progress a case? Can we expect law
firms to be able to bank roll this on a regular basis? No we can’t.
But whilst some fight against the changes, others are
innovating. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) takes on increasing relevance
if it can achieve the same result more quickly and at a lower price. Using the
courts is now not only expensive, but slow. It can take months and months to
get cases listed. Our members report that cases are then often stood down at
the last minute, wasting time and money. Decision making on costs can be
inconsistent as judges struggle with the demands of cost budgeting.
So what’s going on in the world of ADR? APIL has worked with
FOIL and MASS to build a register of mediators, and it is anticipated the
website will be launched in the autumn to allow easy selection of an
experienced PI mediator.
This week alone two new ADR schemes are launching. PICARBS (Personal
Injury Claims Arbitration Scheme) offers a straightforward arbitration scheme
using QCs to decide on the substantive matter. With a low entry price it offers
a significant saving on a court fee. Some claimant firms are open to new
approaches, defendant firms are perhaps more cautious as they don’t have to
fund the court fee in any event.
CADR (Costs Alternative Dispute Resolution) looks to use
mediation to resolve costs disputes with provisional assessment or detailed
assessment models delivered in a fraction of the time taken by the courts, at
lower cost. Again, some claimant firms are willing to try it as the time saving
alone will make a massive improvement to cash flow. In time we may see more
entrants into this market.
Compensators have fewer drivers to use ADR. They do not pay
the court fees, and like to hang on to their money as long as possible.
However, delay raises internal costs significantly. If they can progress cases
quicker, to get the right answer in fewer hours, their salary bill will reduce.
Those who watch their pennies are giving ADR serious thought. In any event,
should a matter go to court, both sides are asked to say that they have given
due consideration to ADR.
Many law firms are ‘cautious adopters’ and will adopt the
‘watch and see’ approach to see how these schemes work before choosing to use
them. It goes without saying that if ADR gets the case resolved quickly, and at
a lower cost, there could be real benefits for the injured person. It will be
down to members to advise their clients on the options available to them.