According to the Law Society, which regulates solicitors across the UK, over three million people are injured in accidents each and every year.  In many of these cases, someone else remains at fault, which means that accident victims then have the right to claim compensation for any loss they might have sustained as a result of it (for example, in respect of personal injury, vehicle hire or to replace personal belongings such as clothing, audio equipment and other devices).
The ultimate aim of compensation is to put you back into the position you would have been in had the accident not occurred in the first place, and of course, any good solicitor will certainly be able to advise you on whether you have a valid claim.
In the event that you decide to make a claim for compensation then you’ll naturally remain hopeful that the claim will be successful and that you’ll be sufficiently compensated for any loss you might have suffered.
In this article, however, we take a closer look at exactly what happens in the unfortunate event that you lose your claim, and there is no pay-out at the end of it.
What do I need to do if I want to make a claim for compensation?
The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to pursue a claim for compensation is to seek independent legal advice. There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can either consult a claims management company, or you can go and see a personal injury solicitor. Whilst many people are often taken in with the various ‘offers’ advertised by claims management companies, you should bear in mind that they’re often not legally qualified – so whilst they might claim to be experts in their field, they won’t be able to represent you should the matter proceed to a full Court hearing. Instead, they’ll most likely instruct a barrister to attend who naturally won’t be familiar with the case until such time as it’s ready to be heard at Court; nor are you likely to meet them ahead of the hearing date, unless its to attend a private conference if your case is particularly complex.
Unfortunately, the Legal Ombudsman Service also receive a considerable number of complaints about claims management companies. In fact, according to a recent report, they received more than 8,500 complaints during 2013/14, ultimately revealing that almost two-thirds of consumers had no confidence in claims management companies to tell them the truth.  It certainly doesn’t make for good reading.
For this reason, it’s usually advisable to see a qualified solicitor – and one who specialises in personal injury claims. Most high street firms also offer to take cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis which means that you won’t have to pay any legal costs upfront.
What is a no, win, no fee arrangement?
Otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement, a “no win, no fee” arrangement is what it says, i.e. if you don’t win your case then you won’t be liable for your solicitor’s fees. Instead, these will be covered by what is often referred to as “after the event” insurance – and your solicitor will be able to tell you more about how these policies work during your initial consultation (which is usually offered free of charge, so that your solicitor can advise you on your chances of success).
What are the advantages of a no win, no fee arrangement?
Aside from the fact that you won’t have to pay your solicitor up front, another key advantage of entering into this type of arrangement is that your solicitor is unlikely to take your case on if he or she considers it might be unsuccessful. If, on the other hand, you instruct a private solicitor on an hourly basis, then they might not be as motivated to win your case since they’ll obviously get paid regardless of the outcome.
Will I have to go to Court?
The only time you might be expected to attend Court is if the other party denies liability – in other words, they dispute what you’re claiming for, or might not feel entirely to blame for the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Unfortunately, the prospect of having to attend Court puts a lot of potential claimants off making a claim for compensation, despite believing that they’re entitled to it. However, there really is nothing to worry about since your solicitor will present your case to the Court and will also be able to advise you on what evidence you might need to put forward in support of your case.
You might also have to attend Court if the other party disputes the amount of compensation payable – for example if they feel that you were at least partly to blame for the accident. This is sometimes referred to as a “split liability” claim, and you might well hear the term “contributory negligence” during the legal proceedings. This simply means the other party feel you were at least partly to blame for what happened and that your actions should, therefore, reduce the amount of compensation due to you.
However, in the vast majority of cases, personal injury cases are more than capable of being settled out of Court and without needing to attend before a District Judge, so never let this aspect of the process put you off making a claim. It really isn’t as bad as you might first think!
So what if my solicitor takes the case on, but I lose?!
You’ll naturally be very disappointed if your claim is unsuccessful but if you’ve entered into a no win, no fee arrangement you’ll at least have the reassurance that you won’t be financially liable for your legal costs.
Sometimes, as a case progresses, your solicitor might advise you to drop your claim, and this could be for any number of reasons. They may feel that you don’t have enough evidence to substantiate your claim and/or the claim you’ve put forward might simply not have enough merit to proceed any further.
Before you start your claim – or sign on the dotted line with a no win, no fee arrangement – always ensure that you’re absolutely clear on what you’ll be expected to pay (if anything) in the unfortunate event that your claim is unsuccessful. In some cases, your solicitor might ask you to pay any upfront disbursements. These typically include any Court issue fees, any fees for medical reports or anything else which might be payable in advance. You might well be surprised at how quickly this kind of cost adds up so, if your case fails, you need to know exactly where you stand.
If you’ve suffered any type of loss as a result of an accident, then it’s certainly advisable to seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer as soon as you possibly can. Once they have considered all your evidence, then they should be able to offer a reasoned opinion as to the likelihood of your claim succeeding and will hopefully be able to start a claim on your behalf. This is usually initiated with a formal letter of claim to the other party and/or their insurers.
Remember, the ultimate purpose of compensation is not about ‘punishing’ the other party but simply putting you back into the position you were in before the accident occurred (as far as that’s ever possible). When considering your claim the other party’s insurers (or solicitors) will take everything you put forward into account, including the severity of any injuries you might have sustained and the amount of time it could potentially take for you to return to how you were before the accident. Of course, in some cases, this might be difficult to determine – particularly if your injury is likely to take a considerable time to heal. For this reason, you’ll usually be invited to attend a medical appointment and have your injuries professionally evaluated.
Ultimately, there are two key benefits to the “no win, no fee” scheme. Firstly, you won’t have to pay anything up front and secondly, the whole structure encourages lawyers to only take on the very strongest of claims, i.e. those with the best chance of success.
Of course, that’s not to suggest that your claim won’t fail – but if it does then at least, you’ll have the reassurance that your solicitor believed in it and that, most importantly, they did everything they possibly could to get you the very best result.
 The Law Society: Personal Injury claims. http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/personal-injury-claim/
 Financial Ombudsman Service – Complaints in Focus – http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/complaints-in-focus-CMCs-final.pdf