With the so-called ‘whiplash reforms’ approaching, there is understandably a great deal of uncertainty within the personal injury sector. While (rightly so) the main concern of lawyers and commentators has been about the effect the reforms will have on an individual’s access to justice in the event of an injury, many are also worried that the changes will put jobs within the industry in jeopardy.
Ever since the Civil Liability Bill was announced, the future of the personal injury sector has been unclear. The Bill, which is “designed to disincentivise the number of minor, exaggerated and fraudulent claims for compensation resulting from whiplash injuries sustained in road traffic accidents” will see the small claims limit raised to £5,000 and a fixed-rate tariff implemented for low-value RTA claims.
The reforms, which will come into force in April 2020, are expected to have a significant impact on the industry. Personal injury firms up and down the country have been forced to reevaluate their business models and future plans to safeguard themselves against the changes.
However, while the Bill will undoubtedly have an impact, the changes are not as severe as originally thought. Vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, for instance, have been excluded from the small claims limit increase. There will, therefore, continue to be a flow of work coming to personal injury lawyers dealing with road traffic accident claims involving these road users.
When I speak to those working in RTA roles, they are often hesitant about making a career move. This is particularly true of paralegals and fee-earners that tend to be more concerned about the perceived risk associated with the industry, compared with personal injury solicitors.
Those who are interested in moving are often keen to move away from RTA work to another area of personal injury or to a different area of the law altogether. Some people ask me about positions at multi-service firms as they believe moving to a larger practice will protect them from potential redundancies. While I can understand their reasoning, unfortunately, moving to a new practice area or a multi-service firm does not guarantee job security.
There have, of course, been job losses in the sector, with a number of firms making the decision to reduce the size of or close their RTA departments. Others have moved into dealing with more profitable higher-value work.
However, lots of firms, particularly those that deal with a wide variety of personal injury work (e.g. both claimant and defendant) or those that have well-established links within the industry, remain unfazed by the upcoming changes. Not only are these practices maintaining their RTA departments, but many have ambitious growth plans and are continuing to develop their RTA teams.
As someone who specialises in personal injury recruitment, I am continually seeing a steady influx of RTA roles, including portal fee-earner, non-portal fee earner and litigator vacancies. However, over the last few years, there has been a significant drop in the level of candidate activity in respect of these roles. Because there’s currently less competition between candidates, fee-earners and paralegals who decide to explore other opportunities will be at an advantage and stand out to employers.
Looking to make a move?
At Realm, I work with a number of leading personal injury firms across Manchester, Liverpool, the wider North West and Yorkshire. Whether you are looking to work for a regional personal injury specialist or a national multi-service firm, I can help you navigate the market.