The pilot, launched in February 2015 for claims against solicitors, can now be used to adjudicate claims against a wide range of professionals. It is now only the complexity of the matter which may make the scheme unsuitable for a particular case.
A cap of £100,000 on the maximum value of the claim has also been removed, meaning that high value disputes can be settled through adjudication.
The process, which is voluntary to both parties is intended to be quick, easy and low cost. The parties apply to the court requesting the appointment of an adjudicator or to provide the name of their chosen adjudicator. Directions for the exchange of witness evidence and submissions will be made by the adjudicator within 5 working days and a decision provided within 56 days of appointment. Any sum awarded by the adjudicator is payable within 21 days.
The parties may agree on the finality of the adjudicator’s decision and the allocation of costs at the outset. If one party refuses to adjudicate, or takes a case to court after adjudication, they may run the risk of facing higher costs awarded against them by the court.
“I expect more claims will go to adjudication under the new scheme,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks. “It will be a quicker and lower cost method for professional firms and their insurers to settle claims. As such, we may see an increase in adjudications of lower value matters. Firms may be less willing to write off fees where there is a disputed issue as they can obtain an independent judgement on the matter. Similarly, claimants may push smaller matters harder, as the cost of taking action is no longer prohibitive. There may even be a danger that the scheme will be overwhelmed, due to the number of adjudicators available being insufficient to meet demand.”