Cari looks at the issues that can occur when individuals with complex injuries are represented by non-specialist solicitors.
It has long been a concern of ours at Hugh James’ Neurolaw Department that the current system of legal expense insurance can lead to clients with complex injuries being represented by non- specialist solicitors.
I was interested to read an article in the Solicitors Journal recently discussing this very issue and the potential harm that can be caused to the claims of seriously injured, and often vulnerable, individuals.
It’s a very important issue for discussion. Individuals are entitled to the best possible legal representation, but reports last month of an increase in professional negligence claims against personal injury law firms would seem to suggest that this isn’t happening.
In his article for the Solicitors Journal, Michael Williamson reports on several instances where clients have been under represented by law firms that were on the panel for legal expense insurers but did not have specialist knowledge in respect of the types of injury sustained.
The Legal Ombudsman gave a similar view in his annual report earlier this year commenting on the danger to the public in not knowing what the legal expense insurer will pay for in respect of their legal representation or indeed whether or not the lawyer appointed is appropriate for the injury sustained.
The Hugh James Neurolaw Department specialises in handling complex compensation claims for individuals who have suffered a brain or spinal cord injury. We understand that to get the best possible results for clients, any cases involving catastrophic injuries such as these must be handled by experienced specialist lawyers.
All solicitors owe a duty of care to their clients to act in their best interest, which can also mean transferring to a more experienced/ specialist solicitor. Michael Williamson cited a case study in his article which involved a professional negligence claim where a negligent solicitor under settled a case for a client which was actually worth nine times more.
At Hugh James we have seen a rise in cases more recently where dissatisfied clients have come to us, often following a period of inactivity with their current solicitors, or when they have queried the advice that they have been given by their local/ panel non-specialist solicitor.
It’s never too late
The Neurolaw Department here has taken on cases where clients have been with a previous solicitor for a number of years but, inexperience, inactivity and lack of expertise meant that little progress was being made. Many clients believe that once a solicitor is instructed that they can’t then switch to another solicitor or that switching to another solicitor will be a long and arduous process. In fact, it’s a relatively simple process and it’s never too late to switch to a more experienced specialist firm of solicitors.
Families face a whole range of issues and have a lot of questions when a life changing injury occurs. Who can they turn to for the best help and advice? The answer should really be that they can turn to any good solicitor. A good solicitor who doesn’t have the expertise and experience required to get the best possible results for their client will refer them to someone who can but sadly this is not always the case.