The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 received royal assent on 12 February 2015. The Secretary of State has now set the dates of commencement for various sections within the Act.
For personal injury practitioners, sections 57-61 of the Act are of particular importance. These sections will come into force on 13 April 2015 and will apply to all proceedings started by the issue of a claim form on or after that date. Stratos Gatzouris reminds us as to what the Act includes and comments on its likely impact.
Striking out personal injury claims
Section 57 of the Act places an obligation on judges to strike out claims for personal injury where the claimant in the primary or related claim is found to have been fundamentally dishonest. This strike out provision will apply in all claims for personal injury unless the claimant would suffer substantial injustice as a result.
The section extends beyond primary claims for personal injury to include related claims for those supporting a fundamentally dishonest primary claim. This will cover genuine occupants supporting claims of bogus vehicle occupants in road traffic accidents. The section provides that, even though the personal injury claims will be struck out in their entirety, the value of any genuine element of the claim will be recorded in the court order. Any costs order in favour of the defendant will be reduced by that amount. This amount will also be used to assist the court in appeal proceedings, and in any subsequent prosecution or contempt of court proceedings.
Section 57 will come into force on 13 April 2015, and will apply to all proceedings started by the issue of a claim form on or after that date.
Rules against inducements
Sections 58-61 of the Act prohibit legal services providers from offering inducements to make personal injury claims. The prohibition covers both monetary and non-monetary inducements such as welcome payments, free gifts and cash advances. It will apply to various regulated legal service providers as defined in the Act, including solicitors, legal executives and barristers. Enforcement will fall to the relevant regulators. This section extends the earlier ban on claims management companies from offering inducements. It is hoped that extending the ban to legal services providers will reduce the volume of weaker claims and protect claimants from misleading advertising.
The ban under Section 58 will come into effect on 13 April 2015.
There remains some ambiguity regarding how the provisions, especially section 57, will work in practice. It may be some time before we see the true effect of section 57 applications at trial. However, it will be interesting to see whether and how often these applications accompany requests for summary judgment. What we do know is that the parameters of the section, particularly the definitions of fundamental dishonesty and substantial injustice will not be set until these sections are tested and applied by the courts. Even then, it is likely to be an evolving picture.