Friday, 13 July 2018

Divorce – An Overview

By Adam D.A. Manning LLB, LLM      

Please note the following is only for general advice. If you need further help, please see a Solicitor.

The application form to start a divorce is available from the government's website and this has to be completed and filed with the Family Court. You will need to have your spouse's full name and address and a copy of the marriage certificate as well, along with the issue fee, which at the time of writing was £550. You may be able to get help to pay the fee if you are on benefits or low income.

In England and Wales, to apply for a divorce you will need to prove that the marriage has broken down. To do this, you need to show one of five different reasons. The first is that your spouse has committed adultery, which is defined as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. The second is unreasonable behavior, that is your spouse has behaved in a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This might involve physical, sexual or verbal abuse, drunkenness or lack of financial or emotional support and often involves several aspects of the spouse's behavior.

Thirdly, there is desertion, which is where your spouse, without good reason, has left you for more than two years out of the last two and a half, so as to end the relationship.  Fourthly, living apart for more than two years is a reason to show the marriage has broken down, but your spouse has to agree in writing. The final basis is where you have lived apart from your spouse for more than five years, even if your spouse disagrees to the divorce.

Your spouse then has to acknowledge receipt of the form and send this back to the Court.  Once this has happened, the next stage is called Decree Nisi, which entails the person who started the divorce completing a further application to support the original applications.  Once Decree Nisi is issued by the Court, normally there is a six week waiting period before it is possible to apply for Decree Absolute, the final stage of the divorce. Once Decree Absolute is issued by the Court, the marriage is at an end.

Many people issue divorce proceedings themselves, without using a Solicitor, but those that do will have to pay their Solicitor's fees in addition to the issue fee. The amount of the fees really depends on the amount of work that is involved.

Other factors that can be involved include sorting out arrangements concerning children.  It can be helpful to take advice from a Solicitor about this and there is an emphasis on parents and caregivers trying to resolve these issues without using the Courts if at all possible, through mediation if needed.

Similarly, it may be helpful to take legal advice on the financial issues that need resolving during a divorce.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the general principle here is one of equality and again there is much more emphasis on spouses resolving their issues, using mediation for instance, without the need to involve the Courts.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Good Substitution – a great goal

By Adam D.A. Manning

One of the key principles in BNI, the world’s largest business networking organisation, is attendance is critical to the group. I’m writing it in bold type if you haven’t noticed just like it is in BNI’s general policies, so I’ll say it again. Attendance is critical to the group.  This is because showing up regularly and consistently at our meetings, week in, week out, is the best way to develop and mature relationships with each other so that we feel more confident about passing referrals. More referrals mean more money.

In reality, from time to time you might have appointments or even, dare I say it, holidays that mean you have a good reason not to be at the meeting. If you know in advance, BNI’s policy is, “If a member cannot attend, they may send a substitute (not a member of their own Chapter) to the meeting. This will not count as an absence.”

A substitute goes along on your behalf to give your Weekly Presentation at the meeting when you are absent.

The most important point here – who do you choose to be your substitute? It really can be anyone. Picking a substitute can be a good opportunity to choose someone that might be beneficial for your fellow members.  As with Visitors, Substitutes might have referrals or contacts for other members, especially if they haven’t been to our meetings before.

Good substitutes can be colleagues from your own business or your clients or customers, suppliers or other business contacts. One way to sell this is to remind them they are getting a delicious full English breakfast on you, as their breakfast fee is of course covered by your regular subscription.

You can also consider family and friends as substitutes.  One advantage is that hopefully they will talk about your business in glowing terms!

Ideally, good substitutes will be people, like Visitors, who are potentially in a position to consider joining the group.  They should be treated just like Visitors, especially if it is their first visit to the group.  They may well have referrals for members of the group or be interested in joining themselves.  Picking a good substitute can potentially be a great benefit to the group as a result.

A challenge a networking group can have is people who regularly substitute for members of the group.  They are unlikely to have referrals for other members or to want to join; if they had wanted to join, they would have already.  They are less likely to have referrals or new contacts for members of the group, having been a number of times before. So, selecting a good substitute can really make a difference.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things – a Legal Scenario

By Adam D.A. Manning LLB, LLM

Artificial Intelligence (AI) already plays a surprisingly large role in our society and economy, from the way mobile phones route calls to financial software predicting or playing the stock market, and will become even more prevalent in the future.  A term used to refer to computer systems that mimic aspects of human intelligence such as taking decision or even learning, AI is here to stay.

Another related, revolutionary advance is the Internet of Things (IoT). Put simply, IoT is interconnecting all sorts of devices, including everyday objects, over the Internet so that they can exchange data.  This can include medical equipment such as pacemakers, beds in hospitals able to detect if someone is lying in them and even smart watches worn to track exercise. It can include devices monitoring infrastructure such as roads, bridges and railway tracks. It is of potentially enormous application and there are estimates of 20 to 30 billion IoT enabled devices by 2020.  One consequence is a huge increase in the amount of data available for access.

In considering the practical implications of these developments, one illustrative scenario could be that unfortunately regular occurrence, the road traffic accident.  Cars are a perfect example of “devices” that could be on the IoT and if so, this might entail a car transmitting constant data about its position, speed, orientation and even whether it has a fault or is damaged and in need of repair.

Imagine also that the roads themselves have sensors embedded in them that can detect similar information about the vehicles travelling on them, such as their position and heading. This might be linked to a CCTV system through fixed position cameras or even drones. Data from the transport infrastructure system might also include information about the conditions of the road, such as whether it is dry or not, and the general prevailing conditions (time of day, bright sunshine, visibility, fog, cloud, wind and so forth).

For the time being, ignore the issue of driverless cars to keep things simpler. Now, on this road of the future, imagine that there has been a nasty accident involving several motor vehicles, in which sadly some of the occupants have been injured.

The data from vehicles and the road network could be transferred to the police force’s computer to determine whether the emergency services were needed to attend at the scene and, if so, in what number. As this is a serious incident, a substantial contingent might be appropriate. As a result, the emergency services might be alerted sooner than any of the humans at the scene or observing might have been able to contact them. 

Once the emergency personnel arrive, their data would be added to the set of information already available from the vehicle and road sensors, including an assessment of the injuries suffered by victims at the scene and more details about the damage to the vehicles, including photo and video imagery. Witness evidence from people at the scene (or later taken at the police station or a victim’s home) would add further data.

The AI system used by the police would then analyse all of this data and consider issues concerning criminal liability. This might involve, in part, the use of an expert system, which takes data and applies decision making processes to it. Expert systems are an established field of AI with a long history and do not represent a radical new advance, apart from perhaps the huge amount of data that a true IoT would provide. 

Whether anyone involved was driving over the speed limit might be a relatively straightforward issue for the system to analyse. The software might also analyse whether any of the drivers were driving in such a way that might be considered dangerous or caused the incident. This analysis might evolve over time as the software begins to recognise features of a situation that to a police officer suggest dangerous driving; true machine learning might be required.

The data set could then be further analysed by the police force’s AI to determine if any of the drivers had breached the criminal law and warranted prosecution as a result. This would involve analysing the witness evidence for weaknesses such as contradictions with the objective data obtained from the vehicles and road sensors. Part of this system would entail natural language comprehension on the part of the AI; that is the system would have to “understand” the text of the witness evidence.

If the police force’s AI determined that the case might warrant prosecution, a recommendation could be made for the case to be forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a CPS lawyer to review, possibly with the assistance of the CPS’ AI system. The CPS’s AI could analyse the data relevant to this incident and compare it to its library of similar incidents, reviewing their outcomes and predicting what could happen concerning this particular incident. The conclusion of this analysis would be a recommendation regarding prosecution and the possible offence involved.

With regard to the civil law aspects of the situation, the data would be transferred to the AI system for the insurers for those involved in the incident. The insurer’s AI would analyse all of this data to determine if any of the parties involved had a personal injury or motor vehicle damage claim against any of the others.

This would, as the case progressed, include data from the hospitals, GPs and other medical practitioners involved concerning the nature and extent of the injuries suffered.  At an appropriate point in time, when prognoses were as clear as they could be, the insurers’ AI systems could recommend offers to make to settle the claims and even negotiate settlements based on precedents for the amount of compensation involved.

Data from garages, employers, physiotherapists and others could be included in the claim to ensure full compensation was recovered, including loss of earnings. Insurance companies already use software such as Colossus to value claims; this just takes the process to its ultimate conclusion.

Of course, in reality this system might have regular human supervision to ensure it wasn’t making aberrant decisions, but in principle this could operate quite independently of human intervention. Lawyers, that is human lawyers, might only be involved in very difficult cases where the data, even in this amount, was unclear as to whether there was any issue of liability.

The widespread use of driverless vehicles in the future implies that a lot of the data about the vehicle’s position, speed and heading will be available in any event as it will be needed by the driverless navigation system.  In the event of an incident, the issue of who, if anyone, is prosecuted or liable in a civil sense becomes rather more abstract and it may be that the appropriate tort is one of product liability rather than negligence.

This thought experiment illustrates an example of how an even more data driven digital society might function. It relies on an Internet of Things generating the huge amount of data necessary, the internet as a medium for the exchange of this data and AI systems within our institutions and companies processing it and taking sometimes very serious decisions as a result. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Nuptial Agreements

By Adam Manning LL.B., LL.M., Senior Solicitor

Many of us have some familiarity with the idea of pre-nuptial agreements from American films and TV shows but for some years these have been becoming more important in our jurisdiction as well.

These are agreements that the two parties to a civil partnership or marriage enter into either before or after their wedding or the celebration of the civil partnership takes place. While we often hear of pre-nuptial agreements, agreements entered into after the wedding, called post-nuptial agreements, are becoming more common as well and may have some advantages over pre-nuptials.

Nuptial agreements centre on the property and assets that the parties own and what is to happen to these if regrettably the marriage or civil partnership comes to an end. The purpose of these agreements is normally where one of the parties has assets that are more substantial than the other and wants to protect them if there is a dissolution or divorce.

During a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership, the financial aspects of the situation are often resolved and the assets divided between the parties. A nuptial agreement will seek to restrict the ability of one or both of the parties to make claims on the assets of the other if such proceedings take place.  For example, let us say one of the parties has a substantial shareholding in a profitable business.  Prior to getting married, they could enter into a pre-nuptial agreement which would state that their partner agrees not to make any claim on that asset if their relationship should come to an end.

Another example would be where the agreement lists the assets of each of the parties in Schedules and states that if the relationship breaks down, both parties agree not to make any claim on the others’ assets as set out in the Schedules. Any additional property or assets the couple gain during the civil partnership or marriage could, in this example, be considered to be their joint assets and if the relationship comes to an end, the parties would be entitled to make claims with regard to them in the normal way.

Previously, the Courts were reluctant to give nuptial agreements recognition when considering the division of marital assets during a divorce.  Life has moved on though and in recent years they have become a more important factor in considering how the financial aspects of a divorce or dissolution are dealt with. Yet they are still some way from being comprehensively binding on the parties in all circumstances, as the Courts are likely to take account of other factors as well.

At present, an agreement like this will be taken seriously by a Court when considering how the assets of a civil partnership or marriage should be resolved, but they will not be the sole criteria at play.  Perhaps one of the most significant points that would lead to a Court not strictly following a nuptial agreement is the needs of the parties.  If one of the spouses or partners finds themselves in very difficult financial circumstances at the time of the breakdown of the relationship, the Court may move away from following the strict wording of a nuptial agreement to ensure they receive more of the marital assets.

A recent case reiterated this point and made it especially clear in cases where the family included young children. The Court stated that the terms of a nuptial agreement cannot be allowed to prejudice the reasonable requirements of the children of a family.

If a lot of time has passed since the agreement was entered into, the Court may conclude that the parties’ situation is now very different from the date of the agreement and so, while the agreement is of interest, other factors may be taken into account as well.

A Court may also look into the circumstances surrounding how the agreement was drawn up and executed by the partners or spouses. In particular if there is any suspicion that one of the parties was pressured into entering into the agreement, the Court may put the agreement to one side or lessen its influence on how the marital assets should be divided.

An inference of this sort of pressure can arise if the agreement was entered into shortly before the celebration of the civil partnership or wedding took place.  This is the reason why post-nuptial agreements may become more popular. In the build up to a wedding or the celebration of a civil partnership, the pre-nuptial agreement can become overlooked or rushed. Often the parties have more time to consider their situation once the big day has been and gone.  Post-nuptial agreements are not as likely to be drawn up in a hurry as pre-nuptial ones and so might be less likely to be challenged.

For a nuptial agreement to be as binding as possible, both parties must have independent legal advice before entering into it.  Clearly a solicitor ought not to advise both parties on the same agreement as there will be a conflict of interest.  Solicitors are often expected to complete a section at the end of the nuptial agreement to provide evidence that the parties had the benefit of legal advice before executing the document.

Nuptial agreements are increasingly important and people are becoming more familiar with the concept.  At present, if the parties have an agreement of this sort it is likely to play an important role in considering how the marital assets are divided but it may not be the only one and solicitors have to advise their clients of the uncertainty that persists as a result.
The Law Commission has recommended reforms that, if enacted, would help nuptial agreements become a more effective means for the parties to take control of their situation.  If a nuptial agreement fulfils certain criteria it can be considered to be binding on the parties. These are that

there was no undue influence on either party,
each party received independent legal advice,
full disclosure of all assets took place beforehand and
the agreement came into effect at least 28 days prior to the wedding or celebration of the civil partnership.

If the agreement satisfies all this, then according to the recommendations it should be binding on the parties. It remains to be seen if these proposals come into force; reforming divorce laws is often a controversial issue. Even so, greater certainty must be a welcome development for those who are considering entering into this type of agreement.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

12 Points about Visitors in Business Networking

by Adam Manning

Visitors, it is often said, are the lifeblood of a business networking group such as BNI, the world’s largest business networking organisation. The following are 12 points to consider about why this is so true and how you can get more visitors to your group.

1. Statistics have shown time and time again that visitors are often the highest source of referrals for members of a business networking group.  This is true both in the number of referrals they give and also the amount of money people earn that those referrals lead to.  People generally join a business networking group to make more contacts in the hope that these lead to us earning more money for their businesses and these statistics show visitors to the group, whether they join or not, are the best source for this.

2. Almost as importantly, visitors are hugely important in growing a networking group. Quite simply, you can’t grow your group without more visitors.  The more visitors there are, the more will apply to join and the larger the group will grow.  The larger the group, the greater the number of referrals and the greater number of referrals, the more money the members make.

3. When a networking group has visitors in the room, it’s clear that they will have better meetings. Everyone is just that bit better behaved – more professional and more business like.  The members feel more motivated and the atmosphere is more positive. If there are no visitors, meetings seem to have less interest and less point to them. Fresh faces mean fresh interest and sometimes, fresh jokes!

4. In BNI, as a baseline, Charlie Lawson, a national BNI director, recommends that each week a BNI group should have at least two eligible visitors at a meeting.

5. It’s important to remember what a visitor is, in terms of BNI. They have to be someone where there is no conflict with an existing member.  Also, they cannot be a member of a business networking group that competes with BNI.   We are perfectly happy to have visitors from groups that don’t compete; in fact that is great as they are likely to have more contacts.  If you have any concerns about these points, please check with your group’s leaders or your regional Director.

6. In short, they have to be eligible to apply to become members of BNI.  But this doesn’t mean that you should only be thinking of inviting people to visit who are interested in becoming members of our group – far from it in fact. We want visitors to see us, regardless of whether they may or may not be interested in joining.  As stated before, visitors are a great source of referrals for the Chapter and that is what we really want – lots of referrals.  In terms of inviting people to apply to join, visiting us and enjoying our meetings is really the best way to do that. So, don’t even think about who may or may not want to join when seeking to invite people to visit us.

7. So, visitors are of the utmost importance to a chapter that wants to be successful – but how do we go about inviting them? Firstly you will need to find details of visitors. You can do so from google searching the type of business you are interested in inviting. The Checkatrade website is a good source of information about this as well. Also, have a look for vans or cars with details of businesses on and think about inviting them.  Local magazines may have details of businesses that are advertising – they might be interested as well.

8. Now, how do you invite visitors? As a basic step, send out invitations. These can be letters in the post or by email.  In BNI branded postcards are available which you can send as well – new members should have some in their new membership pack. I like to send a postcard with my invitation letter.

9. You can also invite people using social media. Over the years I’ve been with my BNI group, we’ve had people come along to visit through spreading the word on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.  They do work, so keep going. As well as messages and posts, also think in terms of Liking other members posts – these do get spotted.

10. Attending other networking meetings is a great way to meet potential visitors. Please think of your group as your core network but for your business’ sake as well, as the group, we should all be out there doing more networking. There are lots of the other networks and groups to visit, some more formal than others.  There are the curry nights that meet regularly and other groups that do not compete with our group.

11. Also, why not create your own event? Some businesses have open days or evenings to invite new clients, customers or contacts in. This could be a great way to meet potential visitors.

12. Finally, get out there and network generally. We are social creatures and all the people in a networking group should be interested in meeting new people – otherwise why would you be here? Get out there and meet new people, whether it be charity or cultural events, community groups, barbecues, dinner parties, sporting events – you name it, there’s always an opportunity to meet new people. So, go get lots of visitors in and take your business networking group to the next level of growth and success!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Employment Tribunal Fees are unlawful, Supreme Court rules

In one of the most striking decisions concerning employment law for some time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced tribunal fees in July 2013.

Employment Tribunals deal with a broad range of claims, including those for unfair dismissal and discrimination. Prior to the introduction of fees, the criticism had been that there was little stopping claimants bringing claims that were groundless or malicious in intent, with a view perhaps to obtaining a payment from a former employer to stop the case going ahead. The introduction of fees was, in part, a means to prevent these types of vexatious and baseless claims from going ahead.

Yet the introduction of fees, especially at the rates laid down by the rules, was controversial right from the start. The fees are payable at different stages of the case and can be up to £1,200 if a matter proceeds all the way to a hearing. Exemptions from paying fees are available, but as with the Legal Aid, these are restrictive in nature and are not applicable to most claimants.

Those seeking justice through the Employment Tribunal are often in a difficult position financially, especially if they have recently lost their job. This is especially so when the time period to bring an employment claim is so short. Gambling such fees, which to most of us are significant sums of money, will put many people off.

I know from personal experience of people with good cases, where the injustice is there for all to see, who have not gone ahead after deciding they are not in a position to pay the fees involved. Fees have, in short, lead to a substantial decline in the number of people exercising their rights. If this is so, the next question has to be, are the rights worth having in the first place if people are unable in practice to access them?

Interestingly, even the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) voiced its concerns about the high level of fees. Rob Wall, the CBI’s head of employment policy, has stated that while supporting the principle of fees to prevent vexatious claims, “we have never called for the level of fees the Government has introduced.” If even an organisation representing employers takes this position, something must be seriously wrong.

The decision of the Supreme Court has lead to the government stating it will immediately cease requiring the payment of fees and will go further and refund the payment of fees to those who have paid them previously. We will see if the number of claims at the Employment Tribunal recovers and yet there are two rather interesting points that follow. Firstly, there will have been many people who have been denied justice since July 2013 following the requirement to pay a fee to bring a claim. Secondly, it is notable that the government managed to take this unlawful decision despite all the criticism and controversy at the time. Perhaps this case will dissuade the government from continuing its apparent campaign to increase Court and tribunal fees whenever possible, especially as it has been demonstrated that unlawfully introducing or increasing them directly impedes the pursuit of justice.

The full Judgement can be found here:

Friday, 19 February 2016

Whittling at the spearhead of justice.

The torrent of legal reform in personal injury rages on, seemingly never able to rest even for a moment.  Now, the way for the reform that many lawyers feared most has been prepared. Chancellor George Osborne announced late last year that the small claims limit for personal injury would increase from £1,000 to £5,000.  Although no date has been set, it cannot be long until this comes to pass. Yet the Chancellor did not stop there as he went onto announce another, unheralded and more novel alteration to personal injury law.  He proposes that claims for general damages (that is pain, suffering and loss of amenity) are to be abolished for people with minor soft tissue injuries.

Both these changes are very significant for injured people. By and large, if a personal injury claim is in the small claims track of the County Court, the rules are that the Claimant will not be awarded their Solicitors’ fees even if they are successful against the Defendant (and vice versa).  Normally if you win a case at Court, your opponent must pay your lawyer’s fees but these cases are deemed to be too small to warrant the use of a Solicitor.  As using a Solicitor would be considered disproportionate to the size of the case, you cannot normally claim your Solicitor’s fees.

For example, in a debt case of say £2,000, if you win your case a Judge will not normally award you your lawyer’s fees in addition to the claim for £2,000.  This acts as a practical restraint on people obtaining legal advice from Solicitors.  If you cannot claim your Solicitor’s fees even if you win, it does n’t make sense to spend lots on legal advice and assistance as you won’t be able to recover it.  Clients often seek a limited amount of advice in such cases if they are unsure of the merits of their case or the procedure involved and may be happy to risk say £100 or so for some limited advice.

In cases without a personal injury element, the limit for small claims at the County Court was changed in April 2013 from £5,000 to £10,000.  This means that in debt cases, contract claims and so forth, if the amount you seek to recover is less than £10,000 it is very likely your case will be assigned to the small claims track.  As a result claims of less than £10,000 are now less likely to involve legal advice and assistance from a Solicitor.  Many people and businesses may consider that claims between £5,000 to £10,000 are sufficiently serious and complex enough to warrant obtaining legal advice but the law now does not allow them to claim the fees if they are successful from the opposing party.

In the run up to these changes in April 2013 it was widely speculated that the government would change the small claims limits as they applied to personal injury claims as well.  After backing away from this change in April 2013, the government has signalled that this change is now definitely going to take place. It is just a question of when.

The limit for these cases has for a long time been £1,000 for the injury claim. In a personal injury claim, a value known as general damages is given to the injury element; the more serious the injury, the higher the amount.  These rules mean that if the injury element of a personal injury claim is valued at £1,000 or less than your claim is in the small claims track and, as above, you will not recover any money spent on Solicitors from your opponent if your case is successful.  Again the idea is that these cases are too small to warrant the involvement of a Solicitor.

A claim of £1,000 for personal injury normally involves, for example, a claim for a whiplash injury that lasts around a week or so.  It could also be a very minor case of scarring that clears up completely in a short time, damage to a single tooth or injuries or wounds of a similar nature. No one who suffers an injury, particularly due to the negligence of someone else, ought to be belittled. Anyone who suffers in this way goes through a terrible time with all sorts of pain, frustration, distress and inconvenience.  Yet setting the small claims limit for personal injury claims at this level seems to be intuitively right.

The reforms proposed by Osborne increase this limit fivefold and this changes the range of injuries that will fall into the small claims track dramatically.  An injury valued at £5,000 can be very serious and many people suffering in this way would find it a traumatic experience.  The severity of such injuries means that they are likely to be cases involving substantial claims for loss of earnings, medical expenses or care (that is assistance from someone during recovery).

Injuries at £5,000 or so can involve fractures of an arm or leg, or a fractured jaw or clavicle (that is a bone in the shoulder).  It might also be the loss of your two front teeth.  It might involve a significant scar to the hand or back. In cases involve a whiplash injury suffered in a road traffic accident, it can include cases of suffering that last for a prolonged period of up to two years.  The point is that increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 suddenly includes injuries that are clearly not trivial, transient or minor.

Injured people making claims for compensation of this sort may be reluctant to obtain legal advice as they are unlikely to recover these fees from the opponent and so any fees they pay will effectively be a deduction from their compensation.  As a result, they are likely to deal with the case themselves and will to some extent be reliant upon the opponent, who is almost always represented by an insurance company, being fair with them.

Is that likely, given that the motivation for all these reforms comes from the insurance companies and their long term quest to cut down the legal fees and compensation they have to pay for claims?

The majority of personal injury claims involve injuries of less than £5,000 and so these reforms will be of great significance to many people and how they claim compensation in the future.

The insurance companies are often quoted as saying how outrageous it is that on average, the premium for every motor insurance policy includes £90 to go towards the expense of paying whiplash claims. This begs the question of what, exactly, is the point of motor insurance if it is not to pay people when they have suffered loss or damage.

The other even more dramatic reform is to abolish claims for general damages involving minor soft tissue injuries.  If you suffer one of these through someone else’s negligence you will simply not be able to claim compensation for your injury.  No further refinement of what is meant by a minor soft tissue injury has been provided. Guidance can however be obtained from a publication called, “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages” from the Judicial Studies Board. This is an important reference for personal injury lawyers in valuing claims.

Interestingly, the Guidelines refer to cases of whiplash involving neck and back injuries as being “minor soft tissue” or “soft tissue injuries” and this includes cases where the injured person has suffered up to two years after the accident.  At a stroke, the Chancellor wishes to prevent people suffering these potentially very serious injuries from claiming compensation for the injury, a potent weapon in his armoury of legal reforms to assist the insurance industry.

It is all too easy to be sceptical about lawyers and their interests when legal reforms are mooted.  Are we only thinking of ourselves and our ability to earn an income? I wonder how teachers, the clergy, Doctors or indeed anyone else would respond to such large scale changes in how their professions or businesses operate.  Given a government presumably philosophically attached to free market principles, it is odd that there have been such regulatory intermeddling.

Many people maybe tired of endless adverts on day time television for no win no fee injury lawyers.  Maybe there are fraudulent claims; but then it is the job of the insurance industry and its highly talented legal advisers to spot them. Yet these changes surely go beyond mere lawyers’ self interest.  They go too far.  Abolishing a large category of claimants as these reforms propose is a huge change and is not proportionate to the problems presented.

Whittle the spearhead of justice too far and you blunt the rule of law.