For some years now it’s been increasingly difficult to get legal aid for those that aren’t on benefits but who will never be able to afford access to justice i.e the vast majority of the population.
Aside from family law, the legal issues which impact most directly on the general public relate to employment law and personal injury and in those areas, no win no fee advice has to an extent filled the gap (a lot mire successfully in injury claims with perhaps the exception of claims relating to medical negligence) but even this is now being erradicated by the swingeing personal injury reforms making no win no fee for low value personal injury claims much less likely and by the forthcoming changes to the employment tribunal rules resulting in court fees being payable.
Even worse, many employment law and personal injury claims overlap with each other. Take the example of an employee who sustains a repetitive strain injury at work. In some instances, this may create a disability and may be caused by negligence or a breach of statutory duty by the employer. This means there is a potential injury claim.
Let’s then assume that the employer is an all round bad egg and decides that instead of making adjustments to help the employee top deal with his or her disability, as required by law, they will instead dismiss the employee who is no longer able to do the job properly. Such a dismissal, especially if proper process is not followed and even perhaps otherwise may constitute unfair dismissal and also, potentially disability discrimination claims, both employment law claims which would typically be started in the employment tribunal. Let’s then assume that the employee, through his or her strenuous efforts and some luck, a couple of months post dismissal, finds another job with a very good and understanding employer.
In the above circumstances, the employee would have very strong and legitimate claims, but both the employment tribunal and personal injury claims might not be worth, in pure financial terms, more than £5,000.00 each. The personal injury claims would be a small claims matter and no costs would be recoverable, making it difficult for the claimant to find a lawyer to take the matter on and still retain the likely damages, plus in the employment tribunal, a person who through no fault of there own has had no income for several months would have to pay a court fee to start a claim and also face the same issue of having to pay the lawyer out of any damages recovered.
It is far from unlikely that in the above situation, the completely blameless victim might have no option other than not to pursue his or her claims, to accept that he or she would possibly get very little financial compensation after legal fees or to decide that it’s simply not worth the stress and hassle of doing anything, meaning that an employer who has let that employee down in a big way escapes scot free.
Both the personal injury system and employment tribunal system have been subject to some excess and abuse in the last 10 years or so, but the reforms that have been brought in certainly do not appear to be fair.