When it comes to a legal matter, as with other jobs in life, we often question whether this is something that we can do ourselves to save some money. Whilst many basic legal matters can be addressed without the need for a solicitor to be instructed, we explain here why running your own personal injury claim could result in mountains of paperwork and considerable stress and yet provide you with no overall financial gain.
Where to Start?
Dealing with any legal matter can be complicated and extremely time-consuming. If you aren’t 100% sure what you are doing and how to apply the law, significant mistakes can be made that could prejudice your claim or make it almost impossible to proceed. For that reason alone, it is always advisable to seek legal advice at the outset of the claim.
Over the past few years I have had a number of individuals approach me after they have started a claim wanting me to take over conduct of the matter as they’ve begun to feel out of their depth. I have had to decline on almost every occasion either because the correct procedure hasn’t been followed or because a deadline has been missed that prevents the matter from proceeding without significant costs. On the couple of occasions that I have take over a file from a Litigant in Person, it has involved a considerable amount of work establishing the present position, retrospectively seeking to comply with protocol and frequently means that the third-party representatives are disgruntled by the earlier handling and therefore less amenable to negotiation a reasonable settlement.
An injured person should ideally instruct a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity to allow the solicitor sufficient time to investigate the claim before the three-year limitation period expires. If they approach a solicitor two years down the line, it can be very difficult for the solicitor to carry out the necessary liability investigations and obtain all of the necessary medical evidence in support of the claim before it becomes necessary to issue court proceedings. This can prejudice the injured person’s position as there may not be enough time to obtain the necessary evidence and make a proper assessment of the case before bringing it to court.
We also see numerous cases where the injured person has been corresponding with the insurer directly who have firmly disputed liability for the case and therefore refused to consider making any settlement proposals. Curiously, when we become involved and prepare a detailed and robust response to their denial of liability, they often go on to admit responsibility for the accident in full. This simply highlights the different approach many insurers and/or their representatives have to dealing with Litigants in Person as opposed to an experienced personal injury solicitor. It is often the case that insurers seek to take advantage of those without legal knowledge or representation, hoping that a weak denial will enable them to avoid the expense of making a justified compensation award.
Under-settling Your Claim
When it comes to making a personal injury claim, in my opinion, it is essential to seek legal advice to ensure that your claim is not under-settled by the third-party insurer. Many insurers frequently make offers on personal injury claims before the injured person has had the chance to seek legal advice, in the hope that they pay a lower amount of compensation than would be paid if the injured party was to receive advice on the true value of their claim.
Valuing a claim involves obtaining a comprehensive report from a suitably-qualified, independent medical expert who will consider the day-to-day impact of your injuries, comment on any treatment required to facilitate your recovery and provide a definitive prognosis in respect of each and every injury sustained. It is also necessary to collate evidence in support of any financial losses incurred as a result of the accident in order to ensure you are fully reimbursed for every out of pocket expenses including any potential future expenses such as further treatment, care or adaptations to the home.
For this reason, it is not possible to predict the value of the claim right from the outset meaning that accepting an early offer could mean you receive hundreds, if not thousands of pounds left than you would if you allowed the necessary evidence to be collated.
When people consider dealing with legal matters without the assistance of a solicitor, it is usually because they want to avoid paying legal fees. People often think that instructing a solicitor means they will spend hundreds, if not thousands, as soon as a solicitor is instructed on a matter. When it comes to making a personal injury claim this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Most personal injury claims will usually be funded by way of a No Win No Fee Agreement. This means that the injured person does not pay anything if the case is unsuccessful but pays a percentage of their compensation to their solicitor if the case is successful. Many clients see this as providing them with access to justice, as although they may not be able to afford to pay legal costs upfront, having a deduction from their damages at the end of the claim is more manageable.
Conversely, the principle of deducting a percentage from an injured person’s damages angers many. The damages received at the conclusion of a successful personal injury claim are of course intended to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering they have endured as a result of their injuries as well as reimburse them for any financial losses suffered as a result of lost earnings, medical expenses and the like. The idea that solicitors are permitted to make a deduction from that compensation to boost their profits is often viewed a contradicting their efforts to maximise their client’s damages award.
At Nelson Myatt we share a similar view. We feel strongly that your compensation award is intended, where possible, to put you back in the position you would have founds yourself had the accident not happened. For this very reason, we don’t take a cut of your compensation meaning that in addition to having the security of instructing us on a No Win No Fee basis, you don’t even have to pay anything when you claim is successful!
Nelson Myatt Solicitors LLP
Suite 6, Conwy Business Centre,
Llandudno Junction, Conwy, LL31 9XX