Jasmine Butler looks at the low value road traffic accident protocol and a technical mishap that could result in a personal injury lawyer facing a professional negligence claim
The online low value road traffic accident protocol has been in use for injury claims ranging in value from £1,000 to £25,000 from 31 July 2013. The protocol is based upon information being exchanged between the parties via an online “Portal”.
The Portal is widely used by both solicitors. For anyone who has ever encountered the Portal they are likely to be of the opinion that it is not the most user friendly system. The Portal was designed to avoid delays and save costs.
Settlement negotiations are dealt with under the Portal by sending offers and counter offers. So, for instance, if a Claimant wishes to accept a Defendant’s offer he simply clicks the ‘accept’ button and that’s it; case over.
Unfortunately in the recent case of Draper v Newport the Claimant’s solicitors clicked ‘accept’ by mistake. The lawyer realised her mistake almost straightaway and contacted the Defendants to inform them that the offer had meant to be rejected.
The Defendants were not prepared to accept that the Claimant had accepted the offer by mistake and the case proceeded to Court. The Court concluded that the Claimant’s representative was not allowed to rely upon the common law doctrine of mistake. The Judge commented that to allow the rule in this case “it would have a real risk of undermining the certainty, speed and cost which are all elements which this scheme is designed to deal with, and to deal with in a way which ensures the parties have their cases dealt with justly and at proportionate cost”.
The Claimant was forced to accept the Defendant’s offer rather than being able to reject it and put forward her own counter offer.
The decision seems harsh and unjust. After all, how many people who use a computer on a regular basis can say that they have never clicked on the correct icon? However the court has spoken and careless personal injury solicitors now run the risk of suffering significant financial loss at the push of a button.
If you have suffered loss as a result of a solicitor’s negligent mistake or error then call us on freephone 0808 139 1595 and ask to speak to one of our specialist professional negligence solicitors for a free initial assessment of your compensation claim.