Many will be aware of the Access to Justice (A2J) campaign and its action taken to support claimants in the civil justice system, where the interests of insurers have been protected by the ‘powerful, coherent and professional’ Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Most recently, the body campaigned against the Bill responsible for explaining how the personal injury (PI) discount rate should be determined in future. Nevertheless, A2J was unsuccessful because it failed to ‘pre-empt’ policies and propose genuine alternatives before pivotal decisions were made.
As discussed in last week’s edition of BC Disease News (here), the Civil Liability Bill received royal assent in December 2018 and a new rate is expected to be finalised by 5 August 2019.
Due, in part, to unproductive lobbying, A2J is being wound down.
However, with backing from claimant solicitors (Slater & Gordon, Lyons Davidson, Minster Law, Hilary Meredith, Halsalls and O’Reilly Stewart), legal expenses insurers, medical reporting agencies and claims management companies, the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) will officially replace A2J today.[i]
All ACSO directors have either had direct or indirect involvement with A2J in the past. Executive Director, Matthew Maxwell Scott previously held directorships at A2J and Slater & Gordon, while Directors, Charles Layfield and Ben Welsh, were Legal Director and Group Public Affairs Director at Minster Law and Aviva, respectively.
The newly-established not-for-profit organisation’s key aim is to represent the UK-wide claimant sector better than its predecessor when reaching out to politicians, policymakers and the media, by speaking ‘with one voice’.
ACSO has already set-up a Legal Expenses Insurers Group to work with liability insurers –members will sit alongside LV=, Hastings, Direct Line and Admiral, in an attempt to ‘up their [the insurers’] game’. It has been reported that the organisation will not hold back in calling out wrongdoing on both the claimant side and the defendant side.
For a long time, the Government has expressed its intention to raise the small claims limit to £5,000 for RTA claims and £2,000 for all other PI claims. However, Mr Maxwell predicts that insurers will push for a blanket £5,000 small claims limit, incorporating all PI claims, and then move on to campaign for a £10,000 small claims limit (the current limit for non-PI small claims), encompassing every civil claim.
If ACSO learns from the mistakes of A2J, it would be prudent of the ABI to prepare for stronger opposition in the pursuit of small claims limit change in the near future.
[i] Neil Rose, ‘Exclusive: New group aims to unite claimant sector’ (27 March 2019 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/exclusive-new-group-aims-to-unite-claimant-sector> accessed 29 March 2019.