By Kevin Donoghue, Principal Solicitor at Donoghue Solicitors
As you may know, tomorrow the Mayan calendar moves in to a new cycle.
Some people have predicted that this will lead to the End of the World.
I don’t think so, and leading academics say that the Maya never intended their calendar to be interpreted that way.
However, there are potentially devastating changes to those involved in civil litigation which, if introduced, will fundamentally change the way personal injury accident claims are dealt with after April 2013.
I’ve just written a guest post on the Charon QC law blog about this.
Please read it by clicking on the link, and feel free to comment on that site or via twitter.
Donoghue Solicitors is a specialist law firm dealing solely with personal injury accident claims and actions against the police.
Yesterday the government confirmed the amount of money that accident victims will receive to pay their solicitors’ fees following personal injuries in a car, at work or in a public place, if proposals slated for April 2013 are introduced.
For Road Traffic Accidents dealt with using an online ‘portal’ introduced in 2010, they will only recover £500 if their claim is valued at up to £10,000. Previously, the fees were £1200 (+ 12.5% if the solicitor was acting under a ‘no win no fee’ agreement). If more than £10,000, the fees will be increased to £800. Currently these fees are not fixed, being agreed by negotiation between the parties or set by a judge at court.
For public liability claims (which include tripping and slipping accidents) and employer’s liability claims (accidents at work) the fees paid to the accident victims will be £900 for cases worth up to £10,000. If the case is worth more than £10,000, the injured person will receive £1600. Previously, as with road traffic claims worth more than £10,000, fees were not fixed.
For cases that fall out of the ‘portal’ system a new regime is being proposed, meaning that for the first time, contested cases will be dealt with using a fixed fee system from start to finish, regardless of complexity or time spent pursuing the case.
Insurance company manipulation
The downward pressure on fees has been led by insurance companies, principally those in the competitive motor insurance market. They have convinced the government to reduce legal fees paid to accident victims (which are then passed on to their solicitors), to ban referral fees and to extend the types of cases dealt with using the online ‘portal’. They argued that by doing this the government could help them reduce the cost of insurance premiums, especially in road traffic accident ‘whiplash’ claims, often using emotive, inaccurate and derogatory language. For example, Director General of the Association of British Insurers, Otto Thoresen referred to solicitors as ‘ambulance chasers’ who ‘manipulate the system’. As a personal injury solicitor, I take great offence to such comments, which are designed to deflect attention from his members’ own sharp practices.
As a recent report by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) pointed out, the ‘compensation culture’ cited to justify the reforms is a myth.
Not only are the number of whiplash claims falling year on year, almost half the people who sustain the injuries do not claim for them.
Most surprising of all, almost 30% of claims are encouraged by the insurers themselves, who usually sell the claims they obtain on to their own panel solicitors in return for a referral fee, some for as much as £10,000. As such, insurers are the second highest cause of ‘whiplash’ claims being made, after the injured victim deciding to pursue the claims themselves.
Insurers convinced the government that there was too much money being paid to ‘ambulance chasing’ solicitors to represent accident victims. As the fees in lower value road traffic accidents alone will be reduced by 60% or more, it is likely that this will result in a great many ‘high street’ solicitors turning away this type of work from next April.
‘Advice deserts’, where people are unable to find local solicitors to represent them, could become commonplace.
This is because solicitors are heavily regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and pay large amounts for Professional Indemnity Insurance. As a result, the time and money spent on compliance and overheads to maintain law firms mean that lower fee work may not be taken as it may not be profitably done to the high standards required to satisfy regulators and insurers, let alone clients who have come to expect excellent service from independent solicitors on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.
No more ‘no win no fee’
Under the present system, most of the time the legal fees paid to the accident victim are passed on to their solicitor, in return for which the solicitor agrees not to deduct any money from the compensation paid. As such, ‘no win no fee’ becomes simply ‘no fee’.
It is anticipated that accident victims will be reluctant to pay any money out of their damages to meet the gap between the cost to the solicitor to pursue their claim and the amount paid by the responsible insurers.
Given their resources, it is likely that the insurers themselves, under the guise of Alternative Business Structures, will keep the claims work ‘in-house’ at out –of-town call centres, so ensuring that they still get to profit from the fees paid. In the event they suffer a shortfall, they can just increase insurance premiums and more aggressively fight claims. Solicitors have no such option.
The personal service from a local lawyer may well be lost to all but those willing to pay legal fees out of their compensation, leaving them worse off than before the accident. As the aim of tort law, by which personal injury claims are governed, is to put the innocent victim in the pre-accident position so that they are no worse off than if the accident had never happened, the government’s policies will result in a fundamental change in the law which favours insurers and big business over innocent accident victims.
What lawyers like Donoghue Solicitors are doing
As an accredited firm with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, we are fully behind APIL’s campaign to draw attention to the potentially devastating consequences of the changes to innocent accident victims.
APIL have written to the government demanding a review of the way in which they extended the limits of the road traffic portal, the fee reduction, and the introduction of new portals for non-RTA claims. In the event the government does not respond to APIL’s letter before claim by 23 November, judicial review proceedings will be taken. As there is also to be a consultation on the fee structure in which APIL are involved, there is still time for the government to reconsider.
The government has overlooked an important group when reforming legal services and costs: accident victims. The APIL report noted that, of the 4,000 people surveyed, almost twice as many people would trust a solicitor to look after their interests if they submitted a compensation claim than an insurer. And yet, if these costs changes are introduced, the public may well be at the mercy of the insurers, with no local solicitors to protect them.
The government has swallowed the insurers’ line about cutting excesses within the personal injury market and intends to drastically reduce the amount paid to accident victims by way of costs in the process. In doing so, they have satisfied insurers and their shareholders.
However, this will be done at great personal cost to their constituents, who include not only innocent accident victims, but the thousands who work in and for law firms who now find themselves in an uncertain professional position. It remains to be seen how much of an impact these proposals will have come election time. The Conservatives, who received £4.9 million from insurance company firms between 2005-2011, may come to regret taking the insurers’ easy money in return for letting them set the agenda.
Kevin Donoghue is Principal Solicitor at Donoghue Solicitors, a law firm which specialises in accident claims.
On Monday 12 November 2012, after outgrowing our previous offices at 39 Victoria Road, Crosby, we have moved to Bootle, North Liverpool, Merseyside.
Our new offices are at 2nd Floor, St. Hugh’s House, Stanley Road in Bootle.
We have moved so that we can continue to provide our clients with the best possible service.
I listened to our clients, who told me that sometimes they like to meet up face to face. Although we offer home visits throughout the North West, some said that meeting in an office is preferable. So, I searched for, and found, somewhere that gives our clients (and staff) what they want.
The offices are distinctive as you can see from this photograph. The purpose- built office building has bright yellow vanes on it and is big enough that it can’t be missed.
St. Hugh’s House, Bootle. The new home of Donoghue Solicitors.
The rooms are light, comfortable and airy. Our meeting room is spacious and the reception staff at the main desk are professional and courteous.
St. Hugh’s House is easy to find (being opposite ‘The Cat and Fiddle’ pub near the corner of Merton Road) and only minutes walk from Bootle Strand. The offices are convenient for those using public transport; being just down the road from Bootle Oriel Road train station and on the main bus route to/ from Liverpool city centre. There is ample car parking nearby. For directions to our new offices go to our contact us page.
All clients and contacts, old and new, are welcome to visit Donoghue Solicitors at our new offices in Bootle, North Liverpool. Call us on 0151 924 6690 or complete the online form on this page to contact us.
Local roots in Bootle
For many of us at Donoghue Solicitors, moving to Bootle made sense. I trained and qualified at nearby firm David Phillips & Partners, and live locally in Bootle, as do many of our staff. We are all very proud of our roots in Bootle and North Liverpool, and actively support local community projects (such as Brunswick Youth Club and Bootle Cricket Club) as well as looking after our friends, family and connections in the area.
We outgrew our previous location due to the amazing success we have had, which has been purely down to the hard work and dedication of our staff, and the fantastic loyalty and support shown to us by our clients, family and friends. Thank you to everyone for making this possible. I hope that, with the move to Bootle now done, we can continue to improve and provide the excellent service that our clients have come to expect from Donoghue Solicitors.
Kevin Donoghue (right) and Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors
I am delighted to say that my colleague, Daniel Fitzsimmons (pictured with me here), has today been confirmed as a ‘Litigator’ with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’).
You can see Daniel’s details on the APIL website by clicking here.
APIL is a campaigning organisation with over 4,700 lawyer members which represents its members at the highest levels, fighting with them for victims’ rights.
Its members have to promise to provide the very best service to accident victims who seek full and just compensation. APIL grades members based on experience and ability, using a panel of fellow solicitor members to assess each application individually.
Becoming a ‘Litigator’ is a significant milestone for any APIL member. It proves that you are experienced enough to pursue personal injury cases yourself; select cases and assess risk; work well within in a team (essential for law firms these days); and that you have good client care skills.
It also shows that Daniel is well respected among his peers who also practice personal injury law.
All this is good news for Daniel’s (and the firm’s) accident claims clients, who will continue to receive excellent service from him as an experienced and knowledgeable professional.
Although Daniel is a worthy ‘Litigator’ who deserves great credit for this award, I am sure he will not rest on his laurels as he pursues even more successful compensation claims on behalf of his personal injury clients.
If you want an experienced professional to deal with your accident claim, call Daniel Fitzsimmons on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page to get in touch.
One of the buzzwords of the recent London Olympics and Paralympics was ‘legacy’.
All involved aspired to create lasting improvements in infrastructure, social and personal improvements for the East London area, and the country as a whole through the promotion of sporting activities and welfare, particularly to disadvantaged people.
Donoghue Solicitors are playing their part in this too by representing the family of a worker on a nearby business park who was sadly killed while operating a mobile elevated working platform (MEWP).
Kevin Donoghue, Principal at Donoghue Solicitors, is representing the family on a ‘no win no fee’ basis in the personal injury litigation involving a work accident.
Kevin explains, ‘my client was operating the MEWP at height. The control column of the platform became jammed due to debris being caught in it. As a result, he was forced upwards towards a roofline, where his neck became jammed against it. Sadly, he was asphyxiated.’
A Health and Safety investigation confirmed that the faulty equipment was to blame for the tragic accident.
Mr. Donoghue continues, ‘my client might have survived if those on the ground knew how to operate the machinery. It was the failure to ensure there were trained staff nearby which compounded the initial failure to maintain the machinery.’
As a result of the investigation, and Kevin Donoghue’s pursuit of damages on behalf of the bereaved family, the Olympic Delivery Authority issued a report in October 2011 in which they tested the response on an Olympic Park site. They found that the lack of trained operatives on the ground was a significant issue and recommended further training.
Kevin Donoghue says of the report, ‘the failings of the contractors in my client’s case had not been learned by the time the scenario was re-created. It is not enough to simply issue a report and ‘recommend’ action when lives are at stake.’
Kevin continues to fight for the victim’s family to receive compensation. As he points out, ‘although nothing will bring him back, we hope that my client did not die in vain and that no other families have to suffer due to this preventable failing.’
By Kevin Donoghue, Principal Solicitor, Donoghue Solicitors
As a Liverpool Solicitor, lifelong Liverpool FC fan and a Kop season ticket holder, I was pleased to see that finally, after 23 years of fighting, the families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster received the truth.
They now know, thanks to the report of the Bishop of Liverpool’s panel, that South Yorkshire Police acted disgracefully both on the day of the disaster, and in the aftermath.
In trying to shift the blame to the innocent victims, the Police:
deliberately misinformed the media, providing briefings to a local press agency which led to The Sun’s infamous ‘The Truth’ headline and the scandalous, unfounded allegations that fans stole from the victims, ‘urinated on brave cops’ and ‘beat up PC giving kiss of life’ (see Summary, points 144-148)
fabricated a ‘defence’ to deflect blame in the subsequent enquiries to ‘drunken ticketless individuals’ (see Summary, point 149).
amended 164 junior police officers’ statements, with 116 being specifically altered to ‘remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP’ (see Summary, point 132.). These comments included removal to references regarding lack of leadership (Chapter 11 point 2.11.57), lack of radios (2.11.64) and organisation (2.11.65).
the panel also state that even though alcohol consumption was ‘unremarkable’, ‘A document disclosed to the Panel has revealed that an attempt was made to impugn the reputations of the deceased by carrying out Police National Computer checks on those with a non-zero alcohol level.’ (see Summary, point 70).
In a BBC interview, the current Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police has apologised and said that South Yorkshire Police is now a ‘very different place’.
His words may be comforting to some, but there is no doubt that problems within the police remain. As a specialist solicitor who pursues compensation claims against the police on behalf of victims of police wrongdoing, I am in constant contact with those who have been poorly treated by many different police forces.
Unfortunately, fabrication remains a recurring theme.
For example, in a case I am currently pursuing, my client was charged with assaulting a Special Constable. The police officer’s statement, made only half an hour after the alleged ‘assault’, described how my client pushed him, causing the policeman’s helmet to come off, then head-butted him to the forehead with such force that it caused him a pain in his neck and on his head. As a result, the Special Constable sprayed CS gas into my client’s eyes.
He was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer solely on the basis of the statement written by the Special Constable, even though there were many other police officers at the scene.
What the officer didn’t know was that CCTV footage was found showing that no such assault occurred.
Rather than come clean and apologise, the Special Constable made matters worse during the internal complaint interview by suggesting that in fact the assault occurred off camera and that there might have been a clash of heads rather than a head-butt.
Amazingly, even though he made the statement when events were very fresh in his mind, it was stated in the complaint report that he made it without CCTV footage which would have assisted his recall. The police are trained, professional witnesses. It beggars belief to think that an officer would need the benefit of CCTV footage before making a statement only 30 minutes after such a traumatic event as allegedly being head-butted.
Although the Special Constable maintained his statement was accurate, the Crown Prosecution Service rightly decided not to prosecute, and now that I have seen the footage, I can see why. There was no assault; on camera, or off. The Special Constable’s helmet remained in place (until he removed it himself) so that it would have been impossible for my client to head-butt him to the forehead.
We can only speculate as to the officer’s motives for wrongly stating that he was assaulted, and then changing his story only in the face of damning CCTV evidence. It certainly appears that he knew full well that my client was innocent both at the time of arrest and during the subsequent prosecution. However, he was willing to allow the prosecution to continue and potentially see my client convicted at court and sent to jail.
I am now pursuing a compensation claim against the police on behalf of my client on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. He will recover significant compensation, which has to be paid for out of the public purse. However, he has had to endure the stress of the arrest, charge and subsequent investigation, and battle to clear his name. He is rightly aggrieved at the police’s conduct, which will go unpunished save for an award of compensation.
As in the Hillsborough case, if the police officer involved acted with integrity, all this could have been avoided.
Kevin Donoghue and Daniel Fitzsimmons are legal eagles by day, and marathon men by night!
Read our latest press release to find out more about their latest efforts to raise money for charity by successfully completing the Liverpool marathon.
Kevin Donoghue and Daniel Fitzsimmons (pictured) of Donoghue Solicitors completed the Liverpool Marathon on 9 October 2011, raising nearly £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
The hard-working duo both work at leading Merseyside law firm Donoghue Solicitors. Six months ago they decided that they were going to run the Liverpool marathon for charity and set in place a strict training plan which ensured they were fully prepared.
As Kevin Donoghue (on the right in the picture) explains, ‘there were some sacrifices. We ran most days and would even go running on Friday night rather than staying home watching t.v. or going to the pub!’
Kevin and Dan completed the 26.2 mile marathon around Liverpool and Wirral in 3 hours 56 minutes and 4 hours 54 minutes respectively. Daniel comments that, ‘it was my first marathon. Although I lost a toe-nail and have badly blistered feet, I am glad I did it.’
They are especially proud of the fact that they have been able to raise nearly £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity providing nursing and other practical support to those affected by the disease.
As Kevin Donoghue points out, ‘we all know someone who has been affected by cancer. Reminding ourselves of our fundraising goals gave us both that extra push to finish the race.’
I was recently approached by Les Irving, a Bootle, Merseyside resident.
He told me that he was running the London marathon to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis unit at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool, where his daughter Phoebe receives treatment.
As physical therapy is so important, the patients are encouraged to exercise. As we all know though, that can often feel like a chore.
Read about how we got round this problem below:
Donoghue Solicitors donate Xbox Kinect to Alder Hey Cystic Fibrosis Unit
Leading Merseyside law firm, Donoghue Solicitors, have donated an Xbox 360 with Kinect to help young patients in Alder Hey’s Cystic Fibrosis Unit.
Kevin Donoghue with Les Irving
The generous donation was made following a discussion between Solicitor and Principal of the law firm, Kevin Donoghue, and Bootle resident Les Irving.
Les, 45, recently ran the London Marathon to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Unit where his daughter Phoebe, 11, receives regular treatment.
Mr. Donoghue explains, “cystic fibrosis is a chronic lung disease where thick, sticky mucous builds up in the lungs and digestive tract. Exercise is very important for people with the disease as it helps loosen mucous in the lungs and improves health generally. Les explained to me that sometimes it can be hard to motivate Phoebe and her fellow sufferers in the Unit to take regular exercise, and that he wanted to do something to help make it fun.”
As often happens, technology came to the rescue.
Kevin Donoghue continues, “the Xbox Kinect is a sensor device which attaches to the Xbox 360 video game console. Similar to a webcam, it enables users to control and interact with video games without the need to touch a game controller. Instead, the game player uses full body movement and speech. As games can be involving and exciting, the player does not feel like they are working out, so it’s perfect for reluctant exercisers.”
Les explains, “I discussed the idea with Alder Hey. They liked it but said that they couldn’t afford to pay for such an expensive piece of equipment. I mentioned this to Kevin Donoghue, who readily agreed to donate a brand new Xbox 360 and Kinect if I completed the London Marathon. Thankfully, I did!”
Donoghue Solicitors is proud to give you a pre-launch preview of our new website today.
We’ve been fortunate to have the assistance of Tecmark, the website designers, to ensure that everything’s going to be just right for launch on Monday 31 January 2011.
In designing the website we have focussed on our clients’ experience. This has meant stripping back alot of the unnecessary add-ins (such as flash, which doesn’t work on iphones or ipads) and providing an easy to navigate site that will work just as well on desktop pcs, laptops or mobile browsers.
Please post any comments/ feedback/ recommendations here, and be sure to come back regularly to see what we’re up to.