FIXED CIVIL COSTS AND LEGAL EXPENSES - ADDRESSING THE IMBALANCE OF NON-PANEL FIRM FEES?

Earlier in the year Lord Justice Jackson called on government ministers to make fixed recoverable costs a priority on all civil claims valued up to £250,000.

The author of the civil litigation costs reforms brought in with the implementation of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, said the time had come to extend the fixed fees regime significantly beyond personal injury claims to every type of civil claim up to £250,000. While acknowledging that his recommendations may not be welcomed by solicitors, he felt the move would provide certainty, predictability and proportionality to costs and help inform lawyers’ clients about costs.

Arc Legal believes that a move to a fixed costs regime for civil court claims at this level will go some way to addressing the imbalance in relation to the levels of costs associated with using non-panel solicitor firms on legal expenses funded cases.

The relationship established with specialist panel firms is based on a number of factors directly focused on ensuring legal expenses policyholders receive high quality service and access to relevant legal expertise in the event of a claim.

In addition to these firms’ resources, expertise and adherence to strict service standards, there are commercial arrangements in place related to fees. This means that a panel firm’s costs are more likely to meet the legal expenses policy’s condition for legal costs and expenses to be proportionate to the benefit of pursuing a case. This also means that the limits of coverage available are likely to go further than a non-panel firm.

A move to introduce fixed costs will provide an opportunity to address some of the challenges associated with unreasonable non-panel firm costs on legal expenses claims.

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