Why use a solicitor?
Research* has shown that the 2 main reasons for injured parties to use a solicitor to make their claim are:
- they thought they would be treated more fairly as a result, and
- they felt the process was too complicated for them to deal with.
In the world of modern litigation it is possible to pursue a claim without having to actually pay any costs as long as you instruct your solicitor on a Conditional Fee Agreement (generally referred to as a "no-win, no-fee" agreement) backed by a policy of legal expenses insurance.
If you run the case yourself you run the risk of losing due to lack of knowledge of the rules and/or having to pay the other side's legal costs no matter what happens. Why have a dog and bark yourself? Why take the risk on costs when you can use a solicitor and have none?
If you believe their publicity, a claims management company would be better placed to deal with your claim. For very low value claims this may be true, although the other side will not have to pay their costs and these will probably come out of your damages (or you may have to pay them irrespective of whether you recover damages!). For higher value claims (i.e. anything involving a fracture or worse) the likelihood is they will then pass your claim to a solicitor to deal with anyway. They are likely to restrict your choice of solicitor and any fees they charge will have to come out of your damages. In the 12 months from April 2011 to March 2012 about 20% of claims management companies closed either due to the hard economic climate or action taken by the Ministry of Justice. The problems with claims management companies are reportedly so bad that the Ministry of Justice has set up a dedicated team to deal with their poor practices.
Insurance companies delay claims and try to pay out the least amount of compensation possible, without a thought for the extra legal costs that are being incurred. They are supposed to provide a decision on liability within 3 months and 21 days of being notified of a case, but can take months or years longer. They then seek to argue that parties do not need solicitors because this will cause delay, increases costs and may reduce compensation. Talk about having your cake and eating it.
Where an insurance company makes you an offer to settle your claim then they will almost inevitably have to pay for you to obtain legal advice on this, so why settle without advice?
We act under no-win, no-fee agreements backed by insurance. If your current solicitor will not then ask why. If they believe in your case they should back you. If they do not believe in your case then why are they taking your money?
For advice on choosing solicitors click here.
*(Law Society Strategic Research Unit report of November 2006)
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