Law Society backs fixed fees for holiday sickness claims
Solicitor leaders have backed government moves to crack down on fraudulent holiday sickness claims by limiting the amount of legal costs that can be recovered for claims emanating from foreign travel.
Ministers recently announced plans to extend the fixed recoverable costs regime to overseas holiday sickness claims. The lord chancellor, David Lidington, said that the Ministry of Justice wanted to limit the legal costs travel firms have to pay out for holiday sickness claims by including them in the fixed costs regime. Lidington said he had asked the civil procedure rule committee to assess the position regarding the costs of holiday claims, although that process could take up to a year.
Package tour operators and foreign resorts – particularly Spanish hotel owners – have become increasingly vocal in their campaign for a crackdown on holiday bug fraud. They allege that British tourists are being encouraged by unscrupulous claims management businesses and their lawyers to make bogus claims.
Claimant law firms strongly opposed government moves to impose a fixed fee regime on low-value domestic personal injury cases. They may, therefore, be at odds with their own professional body over its apparent support for the Ministry of Justice’s plans for holiday claims.
“We do not oppose the principle of fixed costs for straightforward, low value claims, such as holiday sickness claims,” said Joe Egan, the president of the Law Society, which represents 130,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales. “Fixed recoverable costs provide some certainty for both sides in litigation and avoid protracted disputes about the level of costs.”
However, Egan warned that “in clamping down on dodgy business practices ministers should be careful not penalise people with genuine or more complex claims”. He went on to argue that fixed costs should not be imposed in all cases. “For example, in complex, high-value claims where people have been seriously harmed, or where a large group of people have been made ill or harmed in the same incident. That’s because a one-size-fits-all-approach would prevent people seriously harmed from getting fair compensation.”