For anyone involved in the liability world, the current changes under consideration are variously seen as presenting opportunities and threats to the way of life as we know it. Whilst many firms will be keeping themselves and their clients ahead of the game (for example you will see regular updates from Kennedys' Civil Justice Group within our Liability Briefs) many defence insurance practitioners will also be members of FOIL. As the voice of the defendant insurance lawyer community, FOIL is pushing for a more transparent and proportionate claims environment.
What does FOIL do?
A few statistics from the last year might help:
- 16 Sector Focus Teams (SFTs) – the SFTs are made up of experts in their field. They are responsible for feeding back detailed comment and review on the live issues in that area, whilst also being a positive driver for FOIL policy, through input into the consultation responses and articles. Kennedys supports many of the SFTs. Tim Wilson is involved in the catastrophic injury SFT and hosted its workshop on periodical payments in October 2011, at which a number of insurers were represented. Tom Armstrong and Kathy Dwyer are involved in the clinical negligence and credit hire SFTs respectively. Michael Howard is in the professional indemnity SFT. Robert Welfare has hosted a FOIL fraud event at our Birmingham office as part of his role in the policyholder fraud SFT.
- 6 Regional Representatives – this is how FOIL ensures that its lobbying strength reaches all parts of the UK. Amanda Wylie, Partner in Kennedys' Belfast office, is the Northern Ireland Regional Representative. With her FOIL hat on, Amanda has responded to a Northern Ireland consultation on access to justice and the Assembly’s consultation on pleural plaques legislation, including appearing before the Committee at Stormont.
- 15 formal lobbying meetings – FOIL hold regular meetings with the MoJ, ABI, APIL, MASS and Law Society. They are invited as of right to put forward submissions on all consultations on insurance and legal issues on behalf of defendant insurance lawyers.
- 16 consultation responses – FOIL has responded on issues ranging from the Löfstedt report on health and safety to the consultation on a charter for the current coroner service. FOIL’s members’ interests are often closely aligned with those of insurers and therefore the ABI and insurers welcome the detailed input that FOIL can add to the debates.
- 24 newsletters – the VOICE is published twice a month by Shirley Denyer, FOIL’s knowledge management consultant, who keeps readers up to date with the issues currently under debate within the industry.
Every reader will have their own personal interests, but the following is a snapshot of the current hot topics where FOIL is heavily involved:
- Discount rate consultation – expected to cover the methodology to be used in setting the discount rate when calculating personal injury damages (currently 2.5%). This consultation has been awaited for some months and is now expected in early 2012.
- Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill – currently at committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill covers legal aid provision, banning of referral fees, recoverability of conditional fee arrangement success fees and after the event insurance premiums, amongst other issues.
- "Solving disputes in the county courts" consultation – which sought views on reforming the civil justice system, based on Lord Justice Jackson’s review and Lord Young’s report "Common Sense, Common Safety". The Government’s response is now expected in early 2012 – expect proposals for an extension of the RTA portal scheme to RTA claims up to £25,000 and to other types of claims (including EL/PL claims), together with a greater emphasis on alternative dispute resolution.
- Credit hire judgments – including the ongoing saga relating to the reasonableness or otherwise of "basic hire rates" in motor cases (Bent v Highways and Utilities Construction Ltd and Allianz Insurance ) and restrictions on recoverability of interest on credit hire charges (Pattni v First Leicester Buses Ltd ).
- Law Commission consultation on insurance law – a consultation has just been launched, covering issues such as whether an insured should receive damages for late payment of a valid claim, insurers’ remedies for fraudulent claims, clarification of the principle of insurable interest and policies and premiums in marine insurance. Responses are due by 20 March 2012.
- Taylor Review: expenses and funding in civil litigation in Scotland – this is Scotland’s equivalent of the consultation on the Jackson reforms. Responses are due by 16 March 2012.
- MoJ consultation on court fees in the High Court and Court of Appeal – with responses due by 7 February 2012, this consultation looks at reforming the fee structure in expectation of a situation where the High Court and Court of Appeal focus on the highest value and most complex disputes, as a result of the ongoing reform of the civil justice system.
In short, expect to hear a lot more from FOIL (and Kennedys) in the coming months!