If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to consider a claim for personal injury, then you’ll most likely find yourself consulting a solicitor for legal advice on what to do next.
Unfortunately, it’s no great secret that solicitor costs can be fairly high – in fact, charges of between £200.00 and £350.00 an hour certainly aren’t uncommon. Consequently, most people are quickly deterred from taking their case any further than the initial free interview offered by most high street law firms and as such, fail to make a claim against a negligent party.
Luckily, however, it’s not all doom and gloom. The “no win, no fee” accident claim was first introduced to resolve the dilemma of incurring legal fees up front and also to give intended claimants a fair chance of obtaining the compensation that they might well be entitled to.
In this article, we take a look at how the “no win, no fee” process works and explain it all in a little more detail.
When might I need advice on a no win, no fee basis?
Solicitors are increasingly offering legal advice on a no win, no fee basis if you’ve suffered a personal injury that wasn’t your fault. These are now fairly common in claims such as road traffic accidents, medical and dental negligence. So, if you’ve been injured as a result of someone’s negligent actions you might want to consider consulting a solicitor on this basis.
What exactly does no win, no fee mean?
As the name suggests, “no win, no fee” ultimately means that if you don’t win your case, then you won’t have to pay for the legal costs. In other words, the ‘no win, no fee’ solicitor acting on your behalf will take the risk on your case and, in return for that, you’ll be expected to pay a success fee if you win the case.
There are two main types of “no win, no fee” agreements, namely:
Conditional fee agreements (‘CFAs’)
If your claim is successful under a CFA, then you receive 100% of any compensation duly awarded to you. Your solicitor will then claim their costs (which you should agree in advance) together with a ‘success fee’. This fee can be up to 100% of your solicitor’s costs, although in personal injury cases is limited to a percentage of any damages awarded. The losing party will have to pay your solicitor’s costs together with any expenses which you may have incurred.
If your claim is unsuccessful under a CFA, then you won’t have to pay your solicitor’s fee; but nor will you receive any award for damages. What’s more, you may be liable to pay your opponent’s costs (particularly if the Court considers that they were not to blame for your personal injury) so you should always take your solicitor’s advice on the likelihood of this happening based on the evidence you have from the outset.
Damages-based agreements (‘DBAs’)
DBAs are also known as contingency fee arrangements and differ slightly from CFAs in that if your case wins, then your solicitor will be paid by taking a certain percentage of the compensation that you’re ultimately awarded.
If you lose your claim, then you obviously won’t receive any reward and will not pay your solicitor’s costs. You may, however, remain liable for your opponent’s costs and so again, this is an eventuality you should certainly discuss with your solicitor before you sign on the dotted line.
In either case, your solicitor will only get paid if your case is successful and prior to entering into such an agreement they should properly explain all the funding options available to you. Also remain mindful that different law firms will charge different percentage rates so be sure to shop around for the best one. That said, the cheapest option isn’t always the best!
It’s also worth noting that some solicitors will ask you to take out an insurance policy known as “After The Event” (‘ATE’). These policies are specifically tailored to the type of claim you’re making but aren’t recoverable from the other side even if your case wins. If the case is lost, then no payment is required since the premium itself is self-insuring.
Consequently, if your solicitor insists you take such a policy out then ensure you fully understand the implications of it and what the cost of it will be.
What are the advantages of no win, no fee?
The main advantage to a no win, no fee arrangement is that you won’t have to pay any legal costs upfront. In fact, the only things you will be asked to pay for are any standard disbursements, such as the court issue fee or any medical report fees.
The amount which solicitors ordinarily charge depends on their level of expertise (i.e. how many years they’ve been qualified) and, which geographical area they practice in – for example, solicitors based in London are entitled to charge a higher rate than those based elsewhere within the UK.  If you’re thinking about using a solicitor outside of the no win, no fee arrangement then you should ask to see a copy of their charging schedule and don’t be surprised if they ask for an initial payment on account of costs – this can usually be quite a considerable amount of money.
What will happen when I see my solicitor?
Once you’ve shopped around for the right solicitor, you’ll be able to make an appointment to discuss your case in more detail.
During this initial appointment, your solicitor will ask for further details about your claim and also request any evidence you might have – such as photographic evidence of your injuries, any witness details and details of your GP. Once all the evidence types have been established, then your solicitor will do an initial letter of claim to the other side before going on to source additional information in case the matter proceeds to Court.
There are various funding options available, so, it’s important that you fully understand the no win, no fee process. Plus, if you have any questions whatsoever then don’t be afraid to ask. Never be tempted to enter into an agreement on the spur of the moment or without reading the small print first since they constitute a legally binding agreement between you and your solicitor.
If you’re thinking of making a claim for personal injury, then it’s important to note that, with very few exceptions, you need to make a claim within three years of the accident date. Of course, the sooner you can make a claim the best chances you have of winning since evidence will be much fresher (including any witness accounts of what happened) – plus, of course, you’ll also be able to receive any compensation that you’re entitled to.
There can be little doubt that no win, no fee arrangements go a long way to assisting those who have a valid claim yet without the necessity of paying expensive legal fees up front. In fact, coupled with the right solicitor and supported by firm evidence in your favour, then there’s nothing to prevent you from successfully claiming for an accident that simply wasn’t your fault.
 HM Courts & Tribunals Service, published 19 April 2010, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/solicitors-guideline-hourly-rates