A new initiative, PIcARBS, is attempting to introduce arbitration for personal injury disputes. The success of this approach will depend upon the extent to which co-operation between the parties, which is often sadly absent in personal injury litigation, can be achieved.
Andrew Ritchie QC outlined his views on the current county court system for personal injury claims in the November 2014 issue of Counsel magazine which can be viewed here:
He is right to say that there are many negative aspects of the current system, not least the recent significant rise in court fees. He is also right to point to the success of arbitration in many other sectors.
While many of the offers of this arbitration scheme seem excellent on paper, it remains to be seen whether it could be successful in practise and the first few parties to engage in this procedure will be brave indeed. Perhaps the lack of formal costs budgeting and applications for relief from sanctions will be a sufficient inducement for some!
The most significant benefit in my opinion is the fact that the arbitrators are all experts in the field. Although most county court judges are familiar with simple personal injury disputes there are some who are not and there are many cases with features which take them outside of the norm. The frustrations of dealing with such cases are experienced all too often in the county court system and will hopefully be absent in this arbitration scheme.
One area which might be seen to be crying out for a similar approach is credit hire litigation and perhaps we will see expansion into other fields should this initiative prove successful.