30 July 2013 | Comment | Article by Mark Harvey
Mark Harvey is head of the personal injury team at UK top 100 law firm Hugh James. Mark and his team of personal injury specialist help individuals claim compensation for various forms of personal injury including harmful products, clinical negligence, industrial disease, asbestos exposure, fatal accidents and brain or spinal injury claims. In this blog Mark discusses 10 key facts about personal injury compensation.
With all the hype over personal injury claims in the past decade I wanted to discuss 10 key facts that many of you may not know.
- Free advice – No solicitor vying for your work is going to charge you for the initial advice they give. Almost every firm will offer you free, no obligation, advice about your individual circumstances.
- Specialists in their field – If you were ill you wouldn’t go to a vet for treatment, the same principle should apply to a legal service. To ensure that your claim is properly managed and settled for the right amount of compensation, you should instruct a solicitor who can demonstrate a proven track record in relation to your type of claim. When researching potential solicitors you should consult relevant material such as the Chambers & Partners Legal Directory or the Legal 500.
- Your solicitor may not be who you originally instruct – With the increase in television and radio advertising it might surprise you to know that a high proportion of the household names advertising today aren’t solicitors at all, but claims farmers. Claims farmers essentially have agreements in place to distribute your claim to one of many law firms on their panel. This means that your case could be fought by someone you wouldn’t have chosen if given the choice.
- Bigger is better – We all want to support our local businesses as they’re at the heart of the community, but when it comes to legal matters bigger firms are generally better equipped to deal with complex cases where your opponent will always be a corporation or insurance company or part of the state with huge resources to defend your claim. For instance a case being fought for brain injury compensation, or mesothelioma lung cancer, requires heavy financial investment as they can run for a number of years. Smaller firms are able to deal with general personal injury claims but when it comes to bigger matters, they may lack the investment required to work through the claim thoroughly. You are entitled to make reasonable enquiries about their ability to fund your claim. Additionally, you should make reasonable enquires about the solicitors’ previous experience in handling cases like yours.
- No win, no fee – With a no win, no fee agreement you don’t pay your solicitor if the case is lost as your solicitor should ensure that you have taken out insurance to cover this event. If your solicitor is successful then they will claim back most of their costs from the other side. Due to a change in legislation on 1 April 2013 your solicitor is no longer able to recover their success fee from the opponent and so if one is payable then it will be deducted from your compensation.However you should still receive at least 75% of your compensation. The success fee is a charge taken by your solicitor for taking on your claim. If your case is lost there is nothing to pay, this includes the cost of the insurance policy, the success fee and any other costs incurred by the solicitor.
- Compensation awards – Compensation is awarded by the court, but how much compensation will you receive? It’s difficult to put a figure on any claim but you should receive a minimum of 75% from the total compensation awarded due to the points raised under “no win, no fee”.
- Changing solicitors – Many would think that once you’ve chosen your solicitor then you’re stuck with them, but this isn’t true. You, the client, are a customer and as the customer you have the right to change your mind. If you’re unhappy with the work your solicitor has carried out then you can simply change solicitors by signing your case over to someone else. This won’t usually cost you a penny for personal injury claims and both the old and new solicitor will deal with the technicalities.
- Time limits – As a general rule, once an individual reaches the age of 18 they have three years to bring a claim from the day they were injured or from the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge begins when a person becomes aware of their injury or illness. However, there are variations to the general rule and you should seek further advice from a solicitor about your personal circumstances.
- Under settled claims – As with any service provided, by any profession, there will be instances where things don’t turn out as you, the customer, expects, with the legal profession being no different. If you think your claim has been under settled then you should contact a solicitor who will look at the circumstances surrounding your original claim. If the solicitor feels the claim has been under settled they may talk to you about brining a professional negligence claim against your former solicitor.
- Claiming on behalf of others – There are circumstances which mean that a claim cannot always be brought by the injured party. In brain injury claims, more often than not, the injured party lacks mental capacity and therefore requires a “litigation friend” to make crucial decisions on their behalf. The same can be said for claims where the individual has died as a family member can still make a claim on their behalf.
Each personal injury claim is different. For further advice and guidance contact Mark Harvey for free, no obligation advice.