Tuesday 31 July 2012

Don't Get Captured!

Your case could be under settled, you could be charged a fee and you could lose compensation.

Personal Injury Solicitors
Article by
Chris Lucas

It’s an unfortunate reality that accidents happen. Car accidents, accidents at work, accidents in public places: the one thing that they all have in common is that they can cause injury, create inconvenience and in some cases change people’s lives forever.

If you suffer as a result of an accident which is not your fault, you will usually be entitled to claim compensation from the liable party. For this, you will often need a solicitor. Many people will already know this, perhaps from information they have read on the Internet, adverts they have seen on TV or their basic knowledge of English law.

What you may not know is that many personal injury law firms, particularly larger ‘factory’-type firms, buy their cases from third party companies known as referrers. A referrer could be your own insurance company: for example, if you have a personal injury claim and legal expenses cover as part of your policy, your insurer may refer your case to a panel firm of solicitors. Another type of referrer is a claims management company (or CMC for short): these companies buy and sell data and they make their money by obtaining information from injured clients and selling their cases to panel firms. The access some CMCs have to data can be surprising and they will often bombard clients with calls and put a lot of pressure on them to sign up as their representatives will often be working on commission.

The panel firms which pay referral fees for their cases are typically costs-driven, they churn over high volumes of work (much of it low value) and they often implement standard practices across the board. The culture of these firms is therefore much like a factory rather than a traditional law firm, which is why we refer to them as ‘factory’ firms.

It is worth noting that referral fees are due to be abolished next year. However, due to recent changes in the legal profession, it is unlikely that the culture and practices of ‘factory’ firms will change in the near future. This is because the law now permits law firms to merge with other companies to form what are known as alternative business structures. It is anticipated therefore that many ‘factory’ firms will team up with their referrers and business will carry on as usual.

So why should you be wary about using a factory firm? Well, there are a number of pitfalls which you should be aware of. Firstly, the majority if not the whole of your claim will likely be handled over the telephone meaning that unless your case proceeds to an important stage such as trial, it is unlikely that you will ever meet your solicitor (or file handler who in many cases will not even be a solicitor) in person. Secondly, file handlers at ‘factory’ firms will often be managing very high caseloads and can often have up to 200 clients each, sometimes more. Consequently, as a client you will often be unable to build a personal relationship with your solicitor or file handler, and also as a result of your file handler’s high caseload it is unlikely that they will be able to dedicate enough time and attention to your case in order to deal with matters expeditiously or provide you with a sufficiently high standard of service.

Another issue to bear in mind is that many ‘factory’ firms have hidden charges in their client agreements, meaning that you may not receive 100% of your compensation, despite what they may lead you to believe. These charges might be buried in small print or disguised in legal terminology and the deduction can often represent a substantial percentage of your compensation. This will often be to compensate for the referral fee paid for your case. The firms may often advertise a ‘100% no win no fee’ service, but the catch is if you win there will be a fee. If you use one of these firms, it is important that you understand everything you sign because once you have signed an agreement, there will be little scope for you to challenge any of its terms and you will have been captured.

A further consequence of using a ‘factory’ firm is that it will be very easy for your case to be under settled. This can often be because ‘factory’ firms tend to instruct medical experts of a lower grade who do not examine clients properly and as a result they produce inaccurate medical reports. We hear stories of clients who have had medical examinations lasting only three minutes! Also, as your file handler will usually not have met you in person, they will not have seen with their own eyes the true impact of the accident and your injury. In addition, for many different reasons a ‘factory’ firm will often be more inclined to settle your claim as quickly as possible rather than commence legal proceedings, which can and often does result in clients receiving less compensation than they are entitled to.

The picture of course is very different at Garden House Solicitors, a friendly specialist firm in Hertfordshire which prides itself on client care. We do not take part in any referral schemes and we meet our clients in person. We ensure that our clients receive a premium service not only by getting to know them personally but also through using the best medical experts, rehabilitation providers and barristers. We devote our time and resources to each case to make sure that every client receives the best possible outcome and ultimately the highest level of compensation. Our expertise in personal injury is recognised by the fact that our firm is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel, which is a badge of excellence in this field of law.

If you are involved in an accident which is not your fault and you suffer personal injury and/or financial loss as a result, it is important that you choose the right firm of solicitors to represent you. So choose Garden House Solicitors and don’t get captured!

If you have already been captured by a ‘factory’ firm and would like our assistance in breaking free, please telephone 01992 422128 today or email Chris@gardenhousesolicitors.co.uk and I will be happy to help you.

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Tel: 01992 422 128

Email: info@gardenhousesolicitors.co.uk
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.


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