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16th February 2011, 2:33pm
Defendant delays driving up civil litigation costs, research indicates
Scales of justice and judges gavel Delays caused by defendant insurers are in many cases driving up the costs of pursuing a civil litigation claim, according to research by academics at the University of Lincoln, which will inform a national review of ‘compensation culture’.

Professor John Peysner and Dr Angus Nurse from the Lincoln Law School, together with John Flynn from the Faculty of Health, Life and Social Sciences, examined the causes of excessive and disproportionate costs in litigation, in particular in personal injury and clinical negligence claims.

The research was commissioned by the National Accident Helpline (NAH), the marketing group for solicitors specialising in personal injury, following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on its proposals for reform of civil litigation costs in England and Wales.

The first study of its kind, Excessive & Disproportionate Costs in Litigation, casts fresh doubt on current government proposals to reform the ‘no win no fee’ compensation regime.

The University of Lincoln researchers examined data on more than 20,000 civil litigation cases and concluded that in certain cases defendant delay can be a significant factor in increased litigation costs and can cost up to six times as much as other causes of delay.

The findings suggest that defendant delays add unnecessary court costs to cases where there is a failure to reach settlement. If a case goes to court, claimants win 90 per cent of the time.

Professor John Peysner said: “We have investigated defendant action on delay – an area previously unexplored – with a focus on personal injury and clinical negligence and conclude that defendant delay can sometimes be a significant factor leading to excessive costs.
“The costs of resolving a case are often twice the level of damages paid out and our analysis suggests a clear link between defendant delay and disproportionate costs.”

The research team has recommended further investigation into the causes and types of defendant behaviour causing delay with a view to making recommendations for a more efficient and speedy claims process. Their report will be cited in the National Accident Helpline’s consultation response to the Ministry of Justice and its further campaigning in this area.

Sam Porteous, Chief Executive of the National Accident Helpline, said: “For too long claimants and their legal advisors have been blamed for the rise in the costs of civil litigation cases.  Independent academic research and analysis of nearly 20,000 cases shows that it is actually the actions of defendant insurers which are driving up those costs. This results in significant delay and challenges the myth propagated by insurers that excessive costs are the fault of claimants.”

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