If you find yourself faced with the possibility of making a claim for personal injury then you might well find it useful to enter into a ‘no-win, no-fee*’ arrangement. This ultimately means that if you lose your case then you don’t have to pay anything – making it an ideal solution for potential Claimants who simply don’t have the funds to pay upfront fees and untold legal costs. However, due to a recent change in Government legislation, the way in which these arrangements operate has changed slightly and there are now two separate parts which are detailed as follows:
What you pay if your no win no fee* claim is successful
Whilst most of the costs of making a claim will be recovered from your opponent, there is likely to be a shortfall. That will be deducted from your final settlement award and is capped at an agreed percentage to ensure that you retain the majority of the compensation awarded to you. Your representative will discuss the percentage with you over the telephone and the same will be set out in writing in the Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) and in your client care letter. It may be that the costs shortfall is less than the agreed cap, in which case, we will charge you the lower amount.
Throughout your claim, you’ll also incur certain disbursements, such as medical report and court fees. In the event your claim is successful then these will ordinarily be paid by the losing party but this is purely a matter for the Court to decide and should never be taken for granted.
What you pay if your claim is not successful
*If your claim is unsuccessful, we will not ask you to pay or contribute to our legal costs provided that you have followed the terms of the signed CFA. There may be scenarios set out within the CFA where you are liable to meet the charges even if you do not win. An example of this would be where you stop instructing us, making it impossible to win your case, or provide us with information that you know to be false or misleading.
Should your claim be unsuccessful, there may be costs in relation to disbursements that we have paid on your behalf throughout the claim (such as medical record fees, medical report fees and Court fees) those disbursements are separate from our legal costs and it may be possible to take out an insurance policy to cover you against these charges. We will discuss with you at the outset your options in relation to that protection and the costs associated with the same.
Our team will discuss all your options with you at the outset. You will not be liable for any costs and disbursements until you have received and signed a copy of your Conditional Fee Agreement. Full terms and conditions can be found in your Conditional Fee Agreement, client care letter and our Client Information Booklet which will be supplied to you at the start of your claim.
Standard conditions of a Conditional Fee Agreement
Before entering into a CFA, Smith Jones Solicitors will explain any basic obligations that you’re required to meet and these will typically include the fact you must:
- Not mislead your solicitor nor fail to co-operate with the proceedings
- Act in accordance with the agreement together with any advice provided to you by your solicitor
- Pay all costs and disbursements incurred to date should you decide not to proceed with the claim and/or fail to comply with the terms of the agreement
- Understand whether other methods of financing costs are available to you
The CFA is a legally binding agreement between you and your solicitor so it’s important you understand the full implications of it. If you have any questions whatsoever then you should ask these before signing it.
Personal injury usually means an injury sustained to the person (i.e. as opposed to being damage caused to either property or reputation). Clinical negligence, on the other hand (which was previously known more commonly as “medical negligence”), necessitates bringing a claim against a medical expert – for example, against a surgeon who has been negligent treating a patient during an operation.
The simple answer to this is – as soon as possible. Not only are the details of the incident more likely to be much clearer in your own mind but certain time limits also apply when it comes to bringing a claim. In fact, most personal injury and accident claims have a time limit of 3 years and sometimes even less than that. It’s therefore advisable to consult a legal professional as soon as possible after the incident so that they can properly guide you through the process and explain what might be needed in terms of evidential proof.
Are there any downsides to no-win, no-fee arrangements?
Sadly, yes. In fact the Legal Ombudsman Service has become increasingly concerned over this particular type of offering and have already paid out almost £1 million in compensation over the past year for those cases not conducted either properly or fairly. What’s more, advisory services such as the Committees of Advertising Practice and The Advertising Standards Authority have also warned that the very phrase “no-win, no-win” is potentially misleading, since it tends to imply the client will not be responsible for any costs whatsoever. And that isn’t necessarily true.
Suffice it to say, as with any other legal agreement, it’s crucial to understand what type of arrangement you’re entering into and what will happen in either event i.e. a successful or non-successful claim.