Should you jump ship if you have lost faith in your head injury lawyer?
One of the things that often comes as a surprise to someone making a personal injury claim is the length of time that it takes to negotiate the amount of compensation, particularly if the case has to go to court. Naturally, you want to get your life back on track as soon as possible, but it can be hard to know if delays and lack of progress are due to the overall system of litigation, or whether you have been let down by your legal team.
‘Over the last 12 months, I have seen an influx of enquiries from people wondering if they can change their legal team,’ says Navdip Gill, head of the Personal Injury department at Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors and a specialist in brain injury cases. ‘A client does have a right to change solicitor if they are not happy with the way that their case is being handled, but your first step should always be to raise your concerns with your solicitor as this may be the prompt that they need to provide you with an update and get things moving again.’
If this does not reassure you, then you should follow the firm’s complaints procedure which will be set out in their initial client care letter. Sadly, there can be instances of poor service in all businesses, and the Legal Ombudsman dealt with 165 complaints against personal injury lawyers in 2022. Of these, 73 complaints were upheld by the ombudsman relating to problems arising from delay; failure to follow instructions; failure to progress the case; failure to respond or to keep the client informed.
In the brain injury cases that come to Navdip, families often have particular concerns which have not been addressed, or the previous solicitor has not instructed the right type of expert. This can be a risk if they are not experienced in brain injury cases. For example with a head injury claim, there are important differences between instructing an experienced neurologist, a neuropsychologist, or a neuropsychiatrist who are on top of their current research and will not row back from the conclusions reached in their report. I have too frequently seen a medical expert at the joint statement phase, simply throw in the towel and agree with the other side’s expert, thereby having a significant impact upon the updated schedule of loss presented by the client.
In these type of cases often referred to as “high risk high reward claims”, it is important to instruct a robust expert who is experienced in litigation and this will provide the client with the best possible chance of maximising their claim.
Navdip has often had to take on a brain injury case mid-way through litigation and sometimes with an impending trial date on the horizon. Based on this experience, he outlines several key considerations for anyone in this boat who is thinking about jumping ship and changing their legal team.
Do you need to dismiss your solicitor before moving to a new firm?
We do not recommend dismissing your current solicitor until you have agreed with another one that they will represent you. There is no guarantee that another firm would take on a claim that is part-way through litigation.
It is important to have a detailed discussion about your case with another solicitor first, at least this will help you assess whether your expectations and frustrations are valid causes for concern.
We do not charge for an initial consultation, so there is nothing to lose.
Value of compensation claim
The amount of money being claimed will be an important factor in determining whether it is a good idea to move from one solicitor to another, or whether another law firm will be able to take on your case.
Navdip explains that he takes the time to review the case file and will only take on a case where he can add significant value, otherwise his advice would usually be to stay with your current team.’
For example, if a client is a high functioning individual, then a brain injury can have a significant impact on their future loss of earnings and their ability to build a comfortable pension pot. If we can see a route to obtaining an improved settlement, then there would be an obvious benefit in moving the case to us.
‘In an ideal world, there would be plenty of time to pick up a new case, but in reality we don’t always have the luxury of time. We have had cases come to us which have been going on for four years, but we are given just four weeks to get to grips with them,’ says Navdip.
Because Geoffrey Leaver has a team of lawyers who specialise in brain injury cases, we are able to hit the ground the running, and can be up to speed within a few weeks of a client’s initial enquiry.
It is not uncommon for families to have been turned away by several other firms before they are referred to us because of our reputation for this type of work.
It would be helpful if you can ensure that you have a file copy of all the all the paperwork to date, but if your solicitor has not kept you informed then this might be difficult.
Once you have formally engaged Geoffrey Leaver and have signed a consent form, then we can apply for all the files on your behalf.
If your case is in court
The most important item that we would need to see is a copy of the claim form, together with particulars of the claim and any schedule of loss.
If the defendant has submitted a defence and a counter-schedule detailing their alternative calculation of loss, then we will need to see this too.
We will need to know how the legal costs were funded with your original solicitor, as costs are likely to be outstanding and we need to provide an undertaking for those.
If this was on a no win no fee basis, we would need to see the terms of that agreement.
If the work was covered by legal expenses insurance, we would need to check the indemnity limit of the policy. For example, if your policy covers you for £100,000 of fees and £95,000 has already been spent, we may still be able to take your case on, but you would need to pay privately to top up the insurance.
Sometimes a claimant will agree to fund ongoing litigation privately if liability has been accepted by the defendant.
If your case has already been issued in court, we would need to know if your case has been budgeted for. This is often referred to as ‘Precedent H’ and covers the costs of running the litigation such as medical experts, counsel, and court fees etc.
An important consideration for the new legal team is to determine whether there is sufficient funding for them to run the existing litigation. If this is not the case then the client would be asked to fund the shortfall, and this would be decided on a case by case basis.
Equally if there is new evidence there is an option to go back to court and ask them to reconsider the original budget of the claim, and this is known as a ‘Precedent T’ application.
The quality and strength of the medical evidence is vital to any claim for personal injury, as this is the basis upon which we can prove how badly the injury has affected you and your future needs. Instructing the right experienced medical experts can make the difference between a low six-figure sum or a seven-figure settlement in compensation.
Therefore we will need to see all the medical evidence and any medical documents.
If we think the quality of the original medical evidence was inappropriate, we would hold a conference with the particular expert and gain an understanding as to why they have reached a certain conclusion. If we do not agree, then we will provide them with updated research from our knowledge bank on brain injuries.
How we can help
Whilst brain injury cases are fiendishly challenging, our experienced team will be able to help you make a smooth transfer and to navigate the litigation system.
Most importantly, you can rest assured that your case is in the hands of a legal team headed by Navdip Gill, who will be working to maximise the compensation payable to you and giving back control to the client, ensuring an active participation in their litigation against the responsible party .
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.