The justice secretary, Jack Straw, has drawn criticism from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) for dismissing no-win no-fee arrangements and blithely accusing personal injury lawyers of “ambulance-chasing”.
In an interview published in the Daily Mail, Mr Straw has said: “I’m concerned, and so are many senior lawyers, about those operating at the margins of acceptability, the ambulance chasers and those using no-win no-fee.”
In the Law Gazette however, Denise Kitchener, chief executive of APIL, has censured Straw for taking “easy potshots” at personal injury lawyers.
“It’s already extremely difficult for injured people to claim compensation for their injuries and it’s ironic in the extreme that [Straw] would want to make it even more difficult by making them fight harder for what is rightfully theirs,” Kitchener says.
“The reference to ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’ is an easy soundbite but is completely at odds with repeated government pronouncements, supported by statistics, that the so-called compensation culture does not exist.”
Personal injury lawyer Hilary Meredith, senior partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, has expressed surprise at Straw’s comments, particularly his use of the outdated “ambulance chasing” term.
“It is now commonly accepted that victims of injury deserve to be properly represented in times of need,” says Meredith, “especially when third party insurers will try every trick in the book to avoid payment. Why should an injured person receive a lesser service?”
“The consequences of injury, especially in times of financial cut backs cannot be underestimated. If injury affects the ability to work, pay your mortgage or results in a permanent disability, proper representation is essential. A personal injury lawyer can assist in rehabilitation and “get back to work” schemes by liaising with the employer and restoring quality of life.”
“Mr Straw needs to go back to his lawyer roots and remember what practising law is all about: helping the victims.”
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