East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs has welcomed an indication from the Justice Minister that he will implement a pre-action protocol to improve the efficiency of the legal system with regard to personal injury claims and which have been driving up the cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist MLA was speaking following reports by the Assembly public accounts committee and the Office of Fair trading.
Mr Beggs said;
“It is clear that urgent action is required to regulate personal injury legal procedures and costs. All drivers bear the excessive legal costs in their annual insurance premiums. Some car owners are so adversely affected by the higher cost that they can no longer afford insurance or to keep a car legally on the road. As a parent of 3 younger drivers, I know only too well the prohibitive cost of insurance.”
“I welcome the indication by the Minister for Justice at the conclusion of Monday’s Stormont debate, that he is likely to introduce a compulsory pre-action protocol for legal representatives when the County Court limit is increased to £30,000 later in the year”
Roy Beggs is a former vice Chair of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee and in a 2010 report on Injury Compensation the Committee recommended that “effective arrangements might be put in place to reflect the views of key stakeholders in future decisions on scale fees and compensation’.
The recent Office of Fair Trading report indicated, stated,
“Differences in the legal processes appear to be leading to higher legal costs in NI in comparison with GB. In particular, the absence of a compulsory pre-action protocol in NI may well have the effect of making litigation more prevalent than in GB as the applicable procedures do not appear to provide the same incentive to settle cases quickly”.
Mr Beggs continued;
“In evidence to the Finance Committee the Association of British insurers advised that “40% of claims reach the courts in NI, in England and Wales the figure is 3.5%”
These higher legal costs are paid for from our annual insurance premiums. The new system of Pre-action protocol is compulsory in England and Wales and as a result there has been a significant reduction in the average time to settle a claim which has reduced from 294 to 132 days.
I am confident that speedier justice will result in Northern Ireland if such a process is introduced here.”