News and Events

The Four Questions All Clients (Should) Ask Solicitors

The Brethertons spinal cord injuries team are asked all sorts of questions by clients and prospective clients, but typically at the outset of a new case those questions coalesce around four main ones. Those are:

  1. Have a I got a case?
  2. Is it worth pursuing?
  3. How much will it cost?
  4. How long will it take?

The first question goes to whether the case is likely to be successful. Sometimes the answer is obviously ‘yes you have’; occasionally it is ‘unfortunately not’. Mostly it is ‘there is certainly something worth exploring’. A spinal cord injury arising from a road traffic collision where the injured person was in no way at fault would be a ‘yes you have’ answer. A spinal cord injury caused by something where there was no fault ascribable to any other party (for example a tumour) might well be met with the ‘unfortunately not’ answer. Most other situations will tend towards ‘it merits further exploration’ – the injury arising because of alleged clinical negligence; the driver who hits ice; the motorcyclist who runs into the back of a vehicle ahead; the fall in a restaurant and so the list goes on.

The question ‘is it worth pursuing’ is in the case of spinal cord injury an easy ‘yes’. The nature and extent of the injury and associated losses is such that compensation sums are vast. Where the question is actually leaning towards ‘how much is the case worth?’ it is impossible to give more than general information. Ultimately spinal cord injury claims are likely to warrant a compensation sum measured in at least 6, usually 7 and sometimes 8 figures depending on the level and extent of the injury, age, and life expectancy. The higher the level of the injury and the longer the life expectancy the more likely the compensation sum will be close to eight figures on a lump sum basis.

The question of how much the claim will cost is easily answered, notwithstanding that solicitors must then provide what can seem a daunting amount of detail that may make some wonder about what they had been given to understand. Most cases will run on a conditional fee agreement basis (Legal Aid not being available for almost all categories of injury claim and no one wanting to pay by the hour when no win no fee options are available). That means that if the case is not successful there is nothing to pay. The solicitor writes off the costs they incur (as will the barristers working on similar terms). Any ‘disbursements’ for experts, Court costs and similar remain payable but the legal expenses insurance arrangement the solicitor will have ensured is in place will usually indemnify the client in respect of those charged. The premium is either paid before there was a claim (attached with motor insurance policies for example) or where more commonly it is arranged after the event to which the claim relates, the premium operates as a no win no fee premium.

If however the case is successful (and by which a substantial sum of compensation has been recovered) there will almost certainly be something to pay. Typically, that will include an amount being

  • The shortfall between what the total costs are and the sum the Opponent is ordered to pay towards that total.
  • A success fee (being a percentage of the basic costs but capped so it cannot be greater than 25% of part of the compensation awarded for past losses and pain, suffering and loss of amenity – usually the largest part of the spinal cord injury compensation is future loss which is not affected); and
  • The legal expenses insurance premium put in place to protect against paying the disbursements in the event the case is unsuccessful and where an offer made by the Opponent is not beaten and the Opponent then seeks to recover the costs incurred between making the offer and the eventual awarding of the lower sum.

Usually in a spinal cord injury claim, in combination those three elements will usually represent a relatively modest amount of the total compensation sum.

The answer to the question ‘how long will it take’ is one that has perhaps the most difficult to process answer. No spinal cord injury claim resolves quickly – we are still proud of one of the most straight forward ‘on liability’ high level tetraplegic claims settling just inside two years. That case involved a head on collision but given the value of the claim issues are bound to be taken. Even where liability is admitted early, the experts that need to be involved for both sides, the time it takes for a final prognosis then informing those experts; the time to obtain records for multiple sources, possibly Court timetabling where disputes remain on specific issues will be issues that conspire to make the time to conclusion longer.

There will always be a range of variables that are simply outside the control of the client and their legal team. Where liability is denied (and in most of the clinical negligence claims we deal with it is denied almost invariably) tragically the time to conclusion may be even longer. Trite as it must sound to patients wanting to get the compensation claim resolved, ‘the need to focus on living your life, rather than living the claim’ is often the only way to look at it and to navigate through the process.

Of course, there are many other questions you may want to ask your prospective solicitor – in fact there are several we encourage are asked to make sure the choice you are making in seeking an experienced and expert specialist spinal cord injury lawyer is one you are comfortable with and in control of.

To contact us if you need legal help after spinal cord injury call Jon Rees on 01788 557617 or email, or Sian Buxton on 01788 557578 or email Follow brethertonsspinallaw on Twitter @neurolawyer or visit our website Brethertons