Understanding No Win No Fee Solicitors
Please keep in mind that this article is provided to inform the reader, and that they should be aware that rules, regulations and law change all the time, and vary in different states and countries. They also vary because every case is different. This is only the starting point, and you should seek professional guidance personally from your own appointed solicitor. Any loss incurred by following the suggestions on this page is entirely the readers responsibility and the writer of this article, and the owners or authors of any sites linked to from this article will not be held accountable for any actions undertaken by the reader.
And that, people, is the small print, and the disclaimer. Something that you should be careful to read when dealing with a no win no fee lawyer, because there is small print in your claims!
No win no fee solicitors seek to compensate the claimant for a personal injury which has left them unable to work, or for some other reason out of pocket financially – perhaps because of having to have had a prolonged period of time off work, or medical or financial bills. In general the sums of money involved are claimed from the opponent’s insurers, but if there is inadequate insurance then the money is claimed directly from the opponent’s assets. In theory at least, should the claimant’s case be unsuccessful, then the solicitor will not charge a fee. However, that might not be the whole story.
The rest of this article will cover these basics in detail, as well as explore some of the processes related to the no win no fee claims system.
For many people the initial reason for claiming money from another person is for honest reasons. Perhaps they have been hurt in some way and are unable to pay for their own medical treatment. Perhaps as a result of the injury they are unable to work and so look after themselves. Perhaps, as in the case of one of my friends, they were involved in a car accident and the police, who do a good job, in this case were unable to establish actual fault on either side and so there has been a limit to how much he can claim from the insurance company, and he has now neither car nor a way of earning a living.
Then there are other people who are in it just for the money! In fact there has been a sharp rise in claims now reaching an estimated £250million alone in the UK, and some of those claims are completely unfounded. Rear end shunts, where a driver deliberately brakes or drives in a way to cause the driver behind to shunt them, and then they claim whiplash, is on the rise.
One of the downsides to this is that the more an insurance company has to pay out, the more they increase the premiums for everyone else who holds a policy, so as to still make a profit for their share holders. Every one suffers.
The second downside which is completely legal applies to those who might sue for damages against a neighbour or a friend. What might happen? Will they fall out with you? The Bible encourages settling out of court, but that’s not for everyone. Sadly though it might be necessary to sue, and the other person be covered by insurance, so that the claimant is able to maintain some reasonable standard of living. The best way of judging it in my opinion is to ensure they have adequate insurance before beginning proceedings. If you are angry, then there is a good chance you will lose more than just a friend.
However, for the vast majority of people who do claim there is good reason to do so. And one final thing to keep in mind is that when a case comes to court the court have to take notice. And that is how some laws are created, laws that protect people.
So decide carefully, and don’t be ashamed of making a claim so long as you have thought through it.
There are other reasons and personal views as to whether or not to employ personal injury claims solicitors. Some of those reasons are ethical in nature.
And of course the right hand storm trooper who bangs his head!
There are a few of terms worth getting your head around: CFA and ATE insurance.
CFA: this in its fuller sense is the correct word for no win no fee, and that is conditional fee agreement. The agreement is made between the client and the solicitor that in a case which is not covered by either family or criminal law, then damage awards may be pursued by an individual to compensate them for loss. It is conditional on the winning of that award, and there will only be fees paid should that win happen. That fee should not be paid out of the award, but rather by the opponent. The claimant in the case of success should be awarded 100% of the claim. But as you will see, this isn’t always what happens.
Any disbursements – that is, payments as part of the proceedings which include, but are not limited to, medical examinations, investigations, costs etc. which are paid out by the solicitor as they go about their business, are also paid by the opponent.
ATE insurance: after the event insurance. This is known as deferred and insured, and it means that although the client is insured against loss of the case, they won’t have to pay the premium on that insurance until after the damages have been awarded. As part of that final adjudication, the opponent is ordered to pay court and other costs including the payment of the insurance bill.
There is a variation on the ATE insurance, which is BTE insurance. This can be found in some household and motor policies such that if you do make a claim against someone, you have already paid the premium to be insured.
When it all goes wrong
Should the case be successful, but the opponent is unable to pay the costs, then it may fall to you the claimant to pay the costs. These can be up to 4 times the amount of the award, so you might end up with less than you started with!
Although it is called no win no fee, if the solicitor takes on the case then they will want paying somehow. If you don’t win, then there is insurance that will cover you for the amount that you will have to pay to the solicitor. If you win, which you hope will happen since the solicitor does a risk assessment to decide whether or not to take the case, then the opponent will most likely have to pay the insurance premium.
The difficulty comes in that sometimes blame cannot be directly attributed to the actions or negligence of the opponent. In which case a portion of the blame is left with the claimant, in which case some of the insurance will also have to be paid.
And the catch is this: you are also liable for the costs which the opponent is not ordered to pay.
What a good solicitor will do
A good no win no fee lawyer will tell you the risks that you are taking on in engaging them. Remember, no win no fee is not risk free! There is always the chance that you could lose, or still have to pay a proportion of the damages yourself. But since they claim it is no win no fee, then there has to be a way of you not having to pay and that is the reason for the insurance, which the solicitor should be able to advise you on and direct you to the most appropriate policy. Even to the extent of digging through your existing insurance policies to see whether or not you are already covered.
At the initial meeting the solicitor will decide if they want to take the case based on their risk assessment of if they can win or not, and if the opposing party is able to pay. You will need to be able to prove who you are by means of a current signed passport, photo card driving license (possibly the paper counterpart as well); recent utility bill and benefit book. You might find a photo id card in the UK with the PASS mark on it will be sufficient, as will a bank account.
What you need to ask no win no fee solicitors
No, the question is not ‘how much will I get’. In fact that is the last question. The following are questions that will be better.
1) Will you get 100% of the no win no fee compensation?
2) What fees will you be charged if the case is won? What fees will you be charged if the case is lost?
3) What proportion of those fees are you actually liable for, especially if there is only partial compensation rewarde?
4) For what reason is there an insurance policy? At what point in the proceedings do you pay for the policy? Who will pay the for the policy depending on the outcome? Who will be the underwriters of the policy until payment is made?
5) Is there a loan agreement? Why?
Again, remember that all that this article can do is to help point you in the right direction when you are considering the no win no fee route. Take your time, and don’t rush into it. Don’t just do it for the sake of getting money into your bank account, but rather pause and think of the ethical motivations. Then proceed with caution: some solicitors (but not all!!!) are out to make money rather than serve people, and those unscrupulous folks will happily take your money as much as someone else’s.
That said, where compensation is needed because of a real and significant loss that could result in a severely damaged way of living, then the system is set up so that you are able to claim not what is rightfully yours (the wrong way of looking at it) but funding to enable you to resume some semblance of life not dissimilar from that which you had before you were injured or incurred loss.
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