You have probably seen their adverts on television or on the Internet: personal injury lawyers promising to get you maximum compensation for injuries you incurred as the result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness. You have probably heard many of them offer their services on a “no win, no fee” basis. However, do you know what that means?
In the following paragraphs we will discuss the concept of “no win, no fee” as well as when such a fee structure applies. Keep in mind that not every lawyer offers this option; neither is it applicable in every type legal case. If you plan to seek the assistance of a qualified solicitor, make sure you know up front what your funding options are.
Definition of “No Win, No Fee”
All of the cases that would qualify under this funding structure would be civil in nature. Fortunately for plaintiffs, UK law requires the losing party to pay the solicitors fees and court costs of the winner. It is this very section of the law that has given birth to the “no win, no fee” scheme.
Here’s how it works:
- You consult with a solicitor to see if you have a worthwhile personal injury claim.
- If your solicitor agrees, he or she files the required paperwork; you pay nothing up front.
- Should you win your case, all solicitors’ fees and court costs are paid by the other party; you get 100% of your settlement.
- If you lose your case, you owe your solicitor nothing. You will be required to pay the costs of the other party.
The no win, no fee structure is beneficial to claimants in a number of ways. First and foremost is the ability to receive 100% of any award given by the court. According to a thorough explanation offered by the Telegraph, prior to a 1995 change in the law claimants only received 75% while the other 25% went to the solicitors that advised them.
The second benefit comes by way of motivating law firms to do everything they can to win a case. If a firm or solicitor does not believe a case can be won, he or she might have second thoughts based on a fear he or she would not be paid. On the other hand, when a solicitor takes a personal injury case, he or she is fairly confident of a positive result, thereby encouraging them to work harder.
Cases That Qualify for No Win, No Fee
Some law firms offer the no win, no fee option across several areas of practice, but most often this fee structure is reserved for personal injury claims. The structure is also known as a “contingent fee” because the solicitor for the claimant is paid contingent on his or her success.
The types of cases typically qualifying for “no win, no fee” include things like:
- Car Crashes – Car crashes and other types of road accidents are among the most popular no win, no fee cases. The thing to remember here is that you do not have to be the driver or passenger in a car to have a valid case. You may also have a case as a pedestrian, cyclist, or passenger on public transportation.
- Medical Negligence – Another very popular no win, no fee category is that of medical negligence. These types of cases arise from injuries or illnesses suffered at the hands of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. Cases against hospitals, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies are also covered here.
- Slip and Trip Accidents – UK law dictates property owners and managers must do everything in their power to ensure a safe environment for the general public. When a “slip and trip” accident injures an individual, a claim may be appropriate. In order to win it must be proved that the accident was caused by the carelessness or negligence of the property owner or manager.
- Workplace Injuries & Illnesses – Injuries suffered in workplace accidents are very often eligible for personal injury claims. So are industrial illnesses in cases where a doctor’s diagnosis determines the condition is directly attributed to the workplace environment to which an individual was exposed.
- Dog Bites – When it comes to personal injury claims, very few attorneys will turn down a dog bite case. Why? Because the law dictates that dog owners and handlers must control their animals at all times. By definition, a dog bite results from an animal not being controlled. A no win, no fee funding option will generally be available for dog bite cases.
- Defective Products – The no win, no fee option is usually available for defective product cases because they are so easy to win. Consumers have a reasonable expectation of safety whenever they purchase consumer goods for their own use. Injuries resulting from normal use can rarely be defended by product manufacturers.
The only thing to remember about personal injury cases is this: for the best possible outcome, it is always a good idea to hire a solicitor with a proven track record. Personal injury cases require some measure of medical knowledge along with access to opinions and testimony from medical experts. With an experienced solicitor on your side, most of these cases can be won.
Funding for a Lost Case
In a best-case scenario, a claimant wins his or her case, receives 100% of their award, and walks off while the defendant pays his or her court costs and solicitor fees. However, what happens if you lose?
The no win no fee option offered by personal injury attorneys only applies to their own fees and court costs. If you lose your case, they are not paid and they swallow the money they have already spent. Nevertheless, you will still be required to pay the solicitors fees and court costs of the defendant.
To prevent you from having to face an overwhelming bill because of a lost cause personal injury law firms usually offer several funding options. The first of those options is an insurance policy arranged by your solicitor. The cost of such a policy is usually fairly affordable.
A second option offered by some law firms comes by way of a loan proffered by the firm. With this funding option, they would pay your costs up front and allow you to make instalments until the loan is paid off. Firms that offer this option do so with the idea of at least making some money on the interest.
Finally, a third option for those unable to realistically pay their legal costs is something known as Legal Aid. The Law Society explains that Legal Aid is a government program administered by the Legal Services Commission. Funds are only available through registered solicitors and advice agencies. If you believe you might need to take advantage of Legal Aid, you will need to be sure your solicitor is part of the program.
Clients Need to Be Patient
Whether your case is eligible for a no win, no fee option or not, be prepared to wait patiently while your case winds its way through the proper channels. According to litigation information website Mondaq.com, even the simplest cases where an out-of-court settlement is reached can take 8 to 12 weeks.
In most of these simple cases, your solicitor collects the appropriate information, organises evidence, and files a claims notification form that is then sent to the defendant. If your solicitor has done his or her job, and you indeed do have a strong enough case, the defendant might accept liability and agree to settle without going to court. At that point, it is just a matter of the two parties sitting down and deciding on a fair settlement.
While that seems easy enough, it does not always work out that way. More complicated cases involving defendants refusing to accept liability can drag on for months or years. The longer such cases drag on the more likely it is you will end up in court down the road. Here is where a no win, no fee personal injury solicitor becomes invaluable.
The longer your case drags on the more time your solicitor is investing in it. With every passing hour he or she works on your behalf the more their services are worth monetarily. The beauty of the no win, no fee funding structure is that your lawyer is assuming risk for his or her own time and investment; you are not.
No-Win, No Fee Not Good for Everyone
Unfortunately, changes in the law now mean that the no-win, no fee funding structure is not good for everyone. Those most particularly vulnerable are the defendants in personal injury cases.
As an example, a Preston café owner was hit with a personal injury claim after a slip and trip accident in her establishment. When all was said and done, the claimant received an award of £2,000 while the café owner was faced with a £20,000 bill from the claimant’s solicitors. Because the bill has now climbed to £30,000, she may now lose her business or home in order to make good on that debt.
These types of situations are set to change from April 1 2013, thanks to legislation that will control many of the excessive costs associated with personal injury claims. We are not exactly sure about the full impact of the new legislation but you should definitely keep an eye on things if you are thinking about making a personal injury claim.
If you have been injured in any type of accident where liability can be assigned to another party, you do have the right to seek a claim. You also have the right to use a no-win, no fee solicitor in order to be able to keep 100% of your award, should you win. The entire thing can be beneficial to you if it is handled right.
On the other hand, take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the defendant. Be careful you are not destroying someone else’s future in order to secure your own. The UK is becoming a highly litigious culture following in the footsteps of the U.S., so think long and hard before you file a personal injury claim.
If you have suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence and you are ready to look for a law firm, there is help by way of a number of websites allowing you to search for qualified solicitors in your area. The following links will help get you started. Keep in mind that it is up to you to vet any solicitor you think you might want to use.
National Accident Hotline – A website that has been offering solicitor search services for more than 20 years. Fill out a simple form and wait for a qualified solicitor to get back to you.
Contact Law – This site is a service of FindLaw and lets you search for a no-win, no fee solicitor either online or over the phone. Your information will be collected and submitted to appropriate solicitors in your area.
Solicitors.co.uk – When you use this site to search for a no-win, no fee solicitor you have the ability to search nationwide. You can look for solicitors across the UK or narrow your search by postcode or city.
Nowinnofee.co.uk – Use this site to find a qualified no-win, no fee solicitor willing to take your case. When you apply online, your information is submitted to a qualified consultant who will contact you to go over the claim process with you.
Personal Injury Claims Advice – This site matches up claimants and no-win, no fee solicitors across a wide spectrum of accidents including car crashes, slips and trips, and workplace mishaps. Fill out a simple form and let them contact you.
First 4 Lawyers – A site designed to match personal injury victims with qualified no-win, no fee solicitors. You can fill out the online form they provide or call the free telephone number listed. They will help you find a solicitor to start your claim.
With literally thousands of solicitors active in the UK, we cannot even begin to scratch the surface by providing you a few links. But to give you a starting point in showing you what’s out there, we have listed the below links to some very reputable firms offering no-win, no fee service for personal injuries. You may contact the Law Society and other professional organisations to check up on the solicitor you decide to contact.
Bolt Burdon Kemp – London-based solicitors specializing in compensation claims. They handle cases of personal injury, medical negligence, child abuse, professional negligence, and military injuries.
Russell-Cooke Solicitors – This law firm offers a wide range of legal services to both commercial and individual clients. For personal injuries and other types of cases clients may be eligible for a no-win, no fee arrangement.
Neil Hudgell Solicitors – A law firm offering personal injury advice and representation for road traffic accidents, medical negligence claims, workplace accidents and illnesses, holiday accidents, and criminal injuries.
Irwin Mitchell – This is the website of one of the UK’s largest and most well known law firms. They handle cases classified under dozens of different areas of practice including personal injury on a no-win, no fee basis.
S.J. Edney Solicitors – A Swindon-based law firm whose only area practice is accident compensation claims. They want to talk to you if you have been injured at work, in a car, in a case of medical or professional negligence, etc.
Martin Kaye Injury LLP – A Shropshire-based law firm offering a range of services for individuals and businesses. Their personal injury division accepts cases relating to all types of accidents and negligence.