Since legal aid for personal injury claims was abolished in 2000, the process of paying for a personal injury lawyer has become a confusing business.
TakeLegalAdvice examines how to pay for your personal injury lawyer, with a particular focus on both the advantages and pitfalls of “no win, no fee” agreements.
“No win, no fee”
To replace legal aid funding, “conditional fee agreements” have been widely rolled out as an alternative means of financing personal injury claims. These agreements are more commonly known as “no win, no fee”, and go some way towards removing the potential financial dangers associated with the costly process of making a personal injury claim.
The “no win, no fee” system of payment works on the basis that the personal injury lawyers’ fees and any other legal costs incurred during the claims process are paid for by the losing side. The agreement may also entitles your personal injury lawyer to a larger fee if your claim is successful.
The “no win, no fee” agreement is recommended by many top personal injury lawyers as the preferable method of financing what can be a very costly form of litigation. Personal injury lawyer David Urpeth, of the solicitors’ firm Irwin Mitchell, told TakeLegalAdvice.com that a reputable personal injury lawyer is only likely to take on a case with a conditional fee agreement if that case is strong. A claimant can therefore be given some indication of the strength of their claim on the basis of this, thereby avoiding embarking upon a potentially lengthy and futile procedure at great personal cost.
What if your personal injury lawyer loses your case?
It is standard practise with the “no win, no fee” system for the claimant to insure against the possibility of losing their case. Failure to do this could leave you with the burden of paying the fees for the other side’s personal injury lawyer, as well as any other fees incurred.
If sufficient cover has been taken out, the insurer should meet the legal costs of both sides in the event of you losing. If your personal injury lawyer is successful in winning your case, the premium for your insurance policy should be paid for by the losing side.
It is therefore worth taking the time to investigate a variety of insurance policies. Legal expense insurance is, for instance, sometimes available as part of a household or motoring insurance policy.
The dangers of “no win, no fee”
The greatest danger with the “no win, no fee” system is that it can be easily misunderstood and a claimant may find themselves more financially liable then they anticipated. In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw, referred to “ambulance chasers” when discussing “no win, no fee” personal injury lawyers.
Whilst Mr Straw’s comments drew criticism from top personal injury lawyers, including Hilary Meredith, personal injury lawyer and senior partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors (see “Personal injury lawyers hit back at Jack Straw”), his comments serve to highlight the danger of using less reputable legal practitioners.
In the worst instance, a consumer may be subjected to high-pressure sale tactics and sold insurance or legal services which are neither adequate nor fully understood.
Ruth Booy, personal injury lawyer at Kester Cunningham John, told TakeLegalAdvice.com that many personal injury lawyers are happy to offer free consultations. It is therefore worth taking the time to speak to a selection of personal injury lawyers to find a reputable lawyer who offers a transparent conditional fee agreement.
Other ways to pay your personal injury lawyer
Depending upon the nature of your claim, it may be worth investigating funding from your trade union as members are sometimes eligible for financial support in the instance of a personal injury. Mr Urpeth told TakeLegalAdvice.com that whilst legal aid is generally not an option, it is very occasionally made available in the instance of medical accidents. If you think you might be eligible on these grounds it could be worth investigating.
It is very ill advised to pay for a personal injury lawyer with your own funds, and even more so with a bank loan. Personal injury cases have a tendency to be costly, long and unpredictable in their outcome. A “no win, no fee” arrangement, if thoughtfully undertaken and thoroughly researched, should ensure that your finances are protected, regardless of your case’s outcome.
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