As everyone has a right of access to justice, there is no legal requirement for you to instruct a solicitor to handle your personal injury claim however, there are a number of factors you should take into account prior to deciding whether or not you will be seeking legal representation.
Below are several points you should consider when reaching your decision:
As there is a fixed period of time during which a personal injury claim can be made it is important to start your claim as soon as possible. For personal injury claims involving adults, the general rule is that a claim must be commenced within three years from the date of the accident or three years from the date you became aware of your injury (for instance when your injury arises from a repetitive strain injury at work). If Court proceedings are not formally commenced before the three year deadline then, the claim is statute-barred under the Limitation Act 1980. There are of course exceptions however, it is the Court that has the discretion to extend the three year limitation period depending on the circumstances surrounding your claim.
Prospects of success
A solicitor has a duty to act in your best interests as such, if liability is denied by the defendant’s insurers/solicitors and your solicitor deems your claim has no reasonable prospects of being successful at trial, they will tell you so and will advise closure of your file. The issue with dealing with a claim yourself is the lack of legal knowledge and experience which means you may think your claim has great prospects when in fact the merits are rather low. This could have disastrous consequences as you could potentially end up in a position where you are not compensated and are financially in a worse position having spent a significant amount of money to pay medico-legal evidence, court fees and potentially the defendant’s legal costs.
Conditional Fee Agreement (‘CFA’)
Bringing a personal injury claim by yourself may seem appealing to you however, it could become very expensive without legal representation especially if Court proceedings are required at a later stage. When you instruct a solicitor you can get help with your legal fees from a Conditional Fee Agreement supported by a policy of After-the-Event Insurance. This is a written legal funding agreement between a firm of solicitors and claimants who cannot afford legal fees. The advantage of a CFA is that you do not need to pay your legal fees upfront. Having a claim funded by way of a CFA means that if your claim succeeds, you will receive damages and the defendant’s insurers will have to pay your legal fees to your solicitors. To compensate your solicitors for the risk they are taking by not getting paid if your claim is unsuccessful, the law allows solicitors to charge a success fee if the case is won, hence the name ‘no win no fee’.
Pre Action Protocols
As you may have anticipated, and despite what many claimants think, you cannot just turn up to a Court to fight your case in front of a Judge. There are many Pre Action Protocols that must be followed prior to a case being heard in front of a Judge. These protocols ‘explain the conduct and set out the steps the Court would normally expect parties to take before commencing proceedings for particular types of civil claims.’
The amount of compensation you will receive is dependent upon the severity of the injury you sustain and the possible extent of recovery. Having to put a monetary value on someone’s pain and injury is not an easy task. When assessing pain and suffering and ‘loss of amenity’, solicitors will first of all rely on the medical evidence prepared by medico-legal experts. Your lawyer will then refer to the Judicial College Guidelines which set out financial brackets for common types of injury. Precedent Case Law where claimants have suffered similar injuries are also considered. If you bring a claim on your own then the question really is: without the legal knowledge, how will you know what your claim is worth? In addition, how will you know how to value your out-of-pocket expenses such as your future loss of earnings, treatment costs etc…?
Unless you are a trained lawyer, if an offer is being made to you by your opponent’s insurers/solicitors, you will not know whether such offer is reasonable and capable of being accepted this is why the guidance of a knowledgeable solicitor is always recommended, that way you can make sure that you are not under-compensated. After all, your acceptance of an offer will be on a full and final basis thus, should you not recover in line with the expert’s prognosis and should your injury remain permanent then you would not be able to go back to the insurance company and ask for more money.
There are several reasons as to why Court proceedings may need to be issued for instance:
- When liability is denied, despite your claim enjoying reasonable prospects, and the third party insurers/solicitors are not prepared to compensate you
- When liability is admitted but a settlement agreement cannot be reached between parties
- When limitation is approaching
The Civil Procedure Rules outline the various steps, Court documents and strict deadlines that both parties must complied with. These rules are complex as such, it may be tedious for you having to deal with litigation on your own without knowing which laws apply to your claim or which process you have to follow. Without legal training it is extremely unlikely that you will know the answers to these questions.
Most solicitors train for at least 6 years prior to qualifying. Once they eventually qualify they would continuously train in order to keep up with the frequent changes in the law.
In conclusion, whilst you can of course attempt to deal with your personal injury claim yourself, this is not something we would ever recommend you doing especially when your claim is complex or serious injuries have been sustained. Personal injury law is complicated as such, you ought to give your claim the best chance for success.
Our highly experienced personal injury experts have over 40 years of experience in dealing with various types of personal injury claims and achieving favourable outcomes for our clients. If you have suffered an injury due to somebody’s else negligence and would like to speak with our personal injury specialist please call us today 0808 252 5231.