On dangerous ground – negligence cases against lawyers have fallen, but the sums being claimed are soaring
It remains the case that, following a peak in 2009, the number of claims against solicitors has generally decreased. It has been widely reported that the most marked increase has come from lender litigation. Residential claims are now tailing off to a degree, although commercial property claims continue to come through. Opinions are divided about whether the worst of the lender claims are now over. If interest rates rise (perhaps unlikely while economic troubles continue) we may see something of a resurgence. For larger firms the trend is towards fewer claims, but of markedly increased severity in terms of amounts claimed. This is because the downturn followed a boom period where there were many complex high-value transactions. A significant development has been this April's introduction of the Jackson reforms to litigation procedure and costs, which end the recoverability by a winning party of a success fee under a conditional fee agreement (CFA) or an after-the-event (ATE) insurance premium.
While negligence cases against lawyers have fallen from their 2009 peak, larger law firms are facing a sharp increase in sums claimed – and the threat of rising insurance premiums is also looming, warns Richard Harrison
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