Personal injury claims should be left out of plans to introduce mandatory mediation to ‘low-value’ cases, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) warns.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is consulting on whether to establish compulsory telephone mediation for all small claims cases.
“This involuntary one hour of mediation would be post-issue, so too late to benefit most injured people with low-value claims, who will fall within the scope of the Official Injury Claim (OIC) system,” said APIL president John McQuater.
“The vast majority of claims in the OIC settle before trial. Even when they don’t settle pre-issue, the work has already been done and it’s time for a judge to make a decision. To add a mandatory phone call in at that stage is bizarre, and a duplication of efforts, especially when early ADR was omitted from the system,” he explained.
“APIL supports alternative dispute resolution (ADR) but it would need to take place pre-issue to have any benefit, as originally envisaged. Previous plans to include pre-issue ADR in the OIC system were deemed too difficult to implement and abandoned by the Government. This idea of post-issue blanket mediation is not the solution.
“Firms are finding their own ADR solutions and building them into their internal processes, which is a preferable approach to an ill-suited one-size-fits-all provision.”
John said that the proposed telephone mediation also would not be appropriate for non-motor, non-OIC cases valued up to £1,500.
“What may be suitable for small claims involving faulty goods and landlord disputes over deposits is not appropriate for people with bodily injuries who are up against well-resourced insurers. ‘Low-value’ does not mean that the claim is simple, and for most people what is described as ‘low value’ will be no such thing,” he said.