AIM-listed accident management company launches ABS

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28 August 2013

Jerman: unique approach

Leading AIM-listed accident management company Helphire Group has linked with a start-up personal injury law firm within an alternative business structure (ABS), Legal Futures can reveal.

Principia Law Limited, which is managed by solicitors and barristers, was launched as an ABS when the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) granted the new business a licence last week, effective from 22 August.

Its focus will be road traffic accident claims, meaning that Helphire will cover the span of matters arising from motor accidents, including replacement hire vehicles, vehicle repair management, claims handling assistance, uninsured loss recovery, and other services.

Unusually, the ABS has a barrister as its head of legal practice – Christopher Perry. The head of finance and administration is fellow barrister Richard Wilcock. Both are former solicitors who now practise from Palmyra Chambers in Warrington and are experts in credit hire work. Their involvement is entirely separate from Palmyra.

The business will be based in Northwich, Cheshire and shares its practising address with one of Helphire’s key operational sites.

The SRA’s register said Principia is “a quoted company or a subsidiary of, or part owned by, a quoted company”.

The ABS’s managing director, solicitor Peter Jerman, said: “The new business brings together some of the industry’s most able and experienced practitioners. Our unique approach combined with our resources and backing will help us to secure a strong position in the sector.”

A statement issued by Helphire Group said that by including solicitors and barristers, the management team would be able “to provide clients with the very best service, relevant advice and support around personal injury claims, with a focus on those arising from road traffic accidents”.

Mr Jerman was appointed Principia’s managing director in July. He is a credit hire specialist solicitor who worked as an associate at Berrymans Lace Mawer (BLM) from 2009 to the end of 2012. Before that he spent four years as a manager of the fast-track/multi-track department at Anthony Hodari & Co.

When at BLM, according to Mr Jerman, he “managed three teams within the motor department” and in relation to credit hire claims, he and his teams “delivered market-leading results”.

Bath-headquartered Helphire Group employs more than 1,200 people across 25 depots and boasts it can deliver replacement vehicles to customers within four hours from its fleet of 6,000.

The group, which includes the specialist provider of replacement licensed vehicles, Cab Aid, is a key supplier to insurance companies. In the half year to the end of December 2012, Helphire announced profits of £3m after a losses of a similar amount in 2011.

Back in 2007, it entered into what was called a “long-term commercial agreement” with then claimant firm CS2 Lawyers, and spent £10.7 million on buying the CS2 group of legal services businesses. The plan was to bring the law firm within the company once ABSs were allowed, but the arrangement was unwound in 2009.

In April 2013 Helphire delisted from the main stock exchange and listed on AIM as part of a refinancing package that involved raising equity of £25.6m, paying off around £23m of debt in cash, and a debt-for-equity-shares deal with its bankers that paid off another £65m of debt.

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