Personal injury claims are big business these days. You can hardly turn on the television without an advert for someone offering to sue anyone you want for almost anything they have done. OK that’s an exaggeration but it seems that everyone is offering legal advice for free. Why is this? And if you have been the genuine and unfortunate victim of an accident or injury or any other legal altercation where someone else is at fault should you really be seeking compensation?
There are a number of moral dilemmas that face any potential claimant. Let’s take an example of medical negligence. Say you have received some poor medical treatment which left you ill and unable to work for a period of time. You instruct a lawyer to sue the hospital. The hospital has to deal with your claim, pass it onto its insurance company who try and reach a settlement and then increase the insurance premium to the hospital because it now considers it to be a bigger risk. The hospital then has less money to spend on patient care and so struggles to avoid a repeat of the problem. Is it right that you should put them in this position?
It’s easy for people who have not been affected by injury to moralise about these sorts of decisions. However, if you were the person who had been hit by a reckless car driver or injured at work by a negligent employer who did not comply with health and safety legislation or left in pain by a negligent doctor or dentist so that you are unable to work and start losing money, then what are you supposed to do? The law exists to deter people from failing to perform their contractual or legal obligations to a reasonable standard. If they fail to do so then they may be considered to have acted negligently. Unfortunately if you are left unable to work due to the fact that someone just rammed into the back of your car because they were talking on their mobile phone then the police are not going to award you a large sum in compensation. A magistrates court might award you a small token sum, but chances are, it isn’t going to pay your mortgage. Therefore the only thing you can do is to get free legal advice and pursue a claim if you have been injured or hurt by someone else.
Another way to look at it is to consider the fact that all free employment advice employers and public authorities and even car drivers are covered by insurance which exists to protect any victims of the person or company covered. Therefore by claiming compensation you are normally dealing with an insurance company. This can still impact on the defendant whose insurance premiums might go up, but the chances are that this is likely to be less of an impact than their negligence has had on you both financially and mentally.
So, can you really get free legal advice? Well, the answer is yes. There are many firms keen to take on personal injury claims. The reason for this is that genuine claims have a very high success rate which means that it is relatively easy to recover compensation via legal means. The vast majority of claims will never go to court because an insurance company will simply weight up the evidence presented by the claimant and if it looks clear that their client was at fault, it will be far cheaper to settle before reaching court. Most free legal advice solicitors will also insist that the insurance company covers their legal costs, i.e. their fee. Some will also offer a no win no fee agreement whereby you are required to take out an insurance policy against losing the case. if you do so, the policy covers your costs. However, if you win, then everyone is happy.