LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Posts Tagged ‘Injuries Board

Will the Citizen have access to the legal profession? Not if the Big Corporations have any say about it!

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I qualified as a solicitor in 1980. I had no connections in law at all and if it wasn’t for the endeavours of my late father, I couldn’t have pursued my legal studies. He worked hard to provide me with an education and without him and the support of my mother, I’d never have succeeded.

For the previous couple of years or so before qualifying, I had been influenced by Inge Clissmann and Aedan McGovern, both barristers and now Senior Counsel. Inge had got me involved with FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres which was run by law students who represented in Court, members of the public who couldn’t afford access to justice. Inge introduced me to the Ballymun Centre located in the basement of Padraig Pearse Tower, long since demolished. There we mainly dealt with family law issues and quite simply, we were overrun with the work. Overrun and indeed overawed. It has left an indelible impression upon me to this day. With little or nothing, the parents we dealt with, raised their families in the most trying of circumstances. At the end of the night, after seeing all those needing help, Inge would insist we retired to the Towers Pub to have a drink, one drink, so as to encourage those we had met to see that we were no different from them and could empathise with them. She was all too aware that lawyers were thought of as elitist and she was doing her part in showing everyone that we were not. She also was teaching us students about our social responsibilities and would not tolerate any bullshit from us. She encouraged talk and discussion and left her mark on us. I subsequently took over as Director of FLAC in Ballymun some time later. They were hard times but certainly gave us law students a social conscience which remains with us to this day. All this happened before our Government were forced to bring in Civil Legal Aid. During my career I have had the pleasure to act for those who ‘couldn’t afford a lawyer’. Pro bono work as it is now referred to.

 

The other influence on my career was my late father. While he was one of the ‘bosses’ in British Railways he was a solid Trade Unionist. He was also a devoted Roman Catholic with a great social conscience. He worked hard to look after us but instilled in me an outlook where people came first. It’s probably because of his example, that at an early stage after qualifying,  I made a decision to not act for Banks or Insurance Companies because I could not identify with the Profit at the expense of People dictate. I found many of their dealings with people to be disgusting and abhorrent. To this day my attitude has not changed.

 

I was lucky enough to be practising when the Competition Authority actions enabled solicitors to advertise. I took out a full-page in Golden Pages, advertising my Personal Injury Law Firm as well as having regular adverts air on RTE Radio. My firm expanded and I must say, I was delighted with the pro-people stance we took. We were a plaintiff firm, never acting for the defendant Insurance Companies. We were attacking the anti-people establishment and winning. Many other firms followed suit and people were being represented on a no-win no-fee basis. What other way could people access the law? This continued, or should I say was allowed to continue for only a moment in time. The Law Society among other interested groups were unhappy and pressurised the Government into making changes. Subsequently PIAB was formed to be a ‘lawyer free zone’ and were mandated with looking after all the injury cases from now on. Thankfully after come Court cases it is no longer a ‘lawyer-free’ zone but the setting up of The ‘Injuries Board’ has depleted the work carried out by High Street Solicitors, whose clients were people, not corporations. At the same time, the Law Society tightened up their advertising regulations and I was personally instructed to not call Early & Baldwin a Personal Injury Law Firm as this was ‘encouraging’ claims. And we are to this day prohibited from advertising that personal injury law is what we do. All this was done by the State in the interests of injured people we were told. Do not believe a word of it. For once, the lawyers who acted for the working man and woman were bringing their cases to Court and accessing ‘Justice’ for them. The Insurance lobby is very powerful, not unlike the Banks. They have great influence over Government, unlike the citizen who has little or no influence.

 

Currently there is outrage regarding the amounts the Insurance Industry are charging for renewal of motor policies. Us lawyers are of course being blamed by the Industry but many commentators are challenging this assertion. Remember that cases were heard before Juries until Government was lobbied by the Insurers who said that people could not be trusted. Then we had cases heard by Judges alone. This continued until the Insurance Industry said that Judges were awarding too much. Judges were halted and the Injuries Board was put in place to replace them. Now it’s only possible for your case to be heard before a Judge, if you’ve rejected the award made by the Injuries Board. All this change has been lobbied for and achieved by the Insurance Industry for their own benefit, not for the citizen. In fact the changes in the law were designed to deny the citizen access to the law by taking the high street solicitor out of the equation. Meanwhile the Big Law Firms still represent the Insurance Industry is all their guises. All this ‘reform’ of the law should be taken with a grain of salt. What had been achieved by young enthusiastic lawyers in getting access to the law for the ordinary man and woman, has now in effect been severely curtailed. This is quite alarming, but maybe not surprising. With the Corporation Tax obscenities and the control of Government by the Bankers, this is the logical conclusion. In future, they would hope, that access to the law was not for the ordinary citizen but solely the preserve of Big Law for their corporate clientelle.

 

LegalEagleStar Friday , 23rd. September, 2016

 

 

 

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm

You Deserve Respect and Justice. We Demand it !

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E&B Posters_007I have been a solicitor working in the area of Personal Injury Law for over 30 years. During that time, I have seen many changes in the way the injured person has been treated.

I qualified as a Solicitor in 1980. At that time, cases were heard before a Judge and Jury. Following strong lobbying from the Insurance Industry, Juries in personal injury cases were abolished. The Insurance Industry lobbyists thought that with cases being heard by Judges alone, that awards would be reduced. This in turn would help to boost the vast profits in the industry. I remember going before the Courts when the Michaelmas term commenced, fearing that my clients would suffer loss as a result of the interference in the Court System by such a strong lobby. As it turned out, Mr Justice Hamilton, in the High Court in Dublin sat on the first few cases and in fact doubled the awards that had been heretofore been awarded. A 12 month whiplash injury which up until then we could expect the sum of 15,000 Irish Punts, he awarded 30,000 ! Other Judges followed his lead. The Courts decided that in fact, Juries were not particularly generous and that awards needed to be raised in order for the injured parties to receive the appropriate compensation for their injuries.

Let us jump ahead in time to the introduction by the Irish Government of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. This State Board would in fact replace the Courts. They would decide on what was fit and proper compensation. As the Large Insurance Companies had the ear of the Government Ministers, they felt that the Judges could not be trusted. This Scheme was introduced as a ‘Lawyer Free Zone’. They were taking the whole Personal Injury area from the hands of what they termed the ‘greedy lawyers’. Thankfully, following a successful challenge in the Courts, they had to relinquish on this point. Nonetheless, it is mandatory to press all cases into PIAB. You then wait for many months until your case is decided on. This is a closed Government System. It is only when an award is made, or indeed the case ‘released’ by The Injuries Board, that you are in a position to bring your case before the Courts.

Back in 1980, lawyers were banned from advertising. The norm was for an injured person to present themselves at the offices of the Insurance Company they had a claim against. You literally went in the front door and took a ticket and remained in line until your number was reached. You then had to fight to have them deal with your case. Many visits later you’d most likely be worn down and take whatever they offered you, in order to bring an end to this stressful situation. In the last 1980’s, following pressure from the Restrictive Practices Commission, advertising by lawyers was permitted. Much to the disgust, I can recall, of the Law Society, who regulate the Solicitors Profession. I was one of the first solicitors to embrace this advertising, by Radio, TV, Golden Pages and other legitimate means. This resulted in injured clients calling us at Early & Baldwin. Our caseload increased. Clients no longer queued up, took a ticket and waited. We looked after them from the moment they called us. There was a seismic change in the way injured people were treated. This freedom to advertise, coupled with the  compensation that Judges were awarding, ensured that people were justly rewarded.

Needless to say, the Insurance Industry were not happy with developments. There followed a new Act to curb advertising by solicitors. No longer could you promote yourself as a personal injury lawyer nor indeed ‘encourage’ people to pursue their claims. This would be deemed an offence which the solicitor would find himself/herself in deep water with the Law Society. So today, we have restrictions on advertising by Personal Injury Solicitors, coupled with a State body, The Injuries Board deciding on awards. Now, the Insurance Industry are happy. You’d never know it of course, as they conceal their massive profits and complain still about ‘fraudulent claims and suchlike. Let’s be clear about it. No solicitor will knowingly take on a fraudulent case. This is a criminal matter. The use of the term by the Insurance Industry is for one thing and one thing only. That is, to scare people into not pursuing their legitimate claims.

We at Early & Baldwin believe that as lawyers, we represent our clients to the best of our ability and despite the restrictions imposed at the behest of the Insurance Companies, it is our belief that our clients deserve Respect and Justice and we will continue to demand it on their behalf. While we are not alone amongst our profession in holding these views, we urge all solicitors involved in working with plaintiff claimants to demand the same for their clients. Don’t accept anything less as all our clients deserve as much.

LegalEagleStar, Tuesday 28th. July 2015

Written by LegalEagleStar

July 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm

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