16 ways you can improve the chances of your personal injury claim succeeding

For claimants, the most concerning outcome is when a solicitor's avoidable error results in the loss of your claim. Even issues deemed 'less serious' can lead to substantial delays and the risk of settling for less than your claim is worth.

Here are some of the ways you can identify (and prevent) solicitor mistakes or failures before they happen to you:

1. Turning away valid injury claims

It may seem surprising, but personal injury solicitors often decline claimants who have valid cases. Even if you've sustained serious injuries and believe you have a strong claim, a solicitor might choose not to represent you. This decision varies widely among personal injury law firms, leading to a notable difference in the rates at which new claims are accepted.

Why is this?

A solicitor’s decision to take on a claim will be affected by:

  • Risk profile. Whether the claim meets the solicitor's risk criteria (most lawyers expect a better than 50% chance of winning the case).
  • Caseload. The solicitor may already have more cases than they can handle.
  • Profitability. Solicitors prefer more profitable types of work. Some solicitors prefer work injury claims; others prefer road accident claims etc. If the solicitor is not a specialist or isn’t set up to handle your type of claim, they may turn you away.

Get a second opinion

Regardless of your solicitor's advice, it's wise to seek a second opinion from another legal expert. A second opinion won’t cost you anything, and it might reveal a different perspective on your claim.

2. Fail to tell you why your injury claim was rejected

Solicitors are obligated to explain their reasons for declining your case, yet claimants often do not receive a clear explanation. Furthermore, solicitors may not always suggest that claimants seek a second opinion upon rejecting their claim. Consequently, many individuals mistakenly believe they have no grounds for a claim after an initial rejection.

This misunderstanding can lead to claimants struggling with the cost of their recovery, unaware that they are still entitled to compensation.

Get a second opinion

Again, a second opinion will either identify another solicitor who can help or who will offer some assurance that a claim may not be worth pursuing. If you are still not sure, get a third opinion.

In any event, don't tell a solicitor that your case was previously rejected as it could influence their objectivity.

If your claim has been initially rejected, talk to one of our expert legal advisers about a re-assessment of your claim by calling 0800 376 1001. Alternatively, you can fin find another solicitor at the Law Society's find a solicitor website.

3. Being too wary of limitation dates

According to Section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980, you have three years to start an injury claim through the courts. Most claims settle out of court before this deadline. Solicitors usually prefer a significant lead time before this three-year cut-off to allow time to build a robust case and negotiate with the defendant. However, some solicitors may require an excessive lead time, perhaps due to existing workload, leading to them rejecting claims with less than 12 or even 18 months left before the limitation dat.

Get a second opinion (again)

If the solicitor turns you down based on an approaching limitation date, another solicitor may still be prepared to help you.

Read more:

How long after an accident can I claim injury compensation?

4. No win, no fee - hidden costs, penalties and traps

Some no win, no fee agreements, known as Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA), only cover the solicitor's fees. They may not include are other expenses like medical expert fees, barrister's fees, or the defendant's solicitor's costs - which can amount to thousands.

Additional fees may, for example, be charged for:

  • rejecting a settlement your solicitor recommends
  • opting for an out-of-court settlement against your solicitor's advice.
  • failing to 'cooperate' with your solicitor in various ways could lead to penalties.
  • covering the defendant's costs if they are unable to pay them

Read the Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) carefully

Read the CFA before you sign it and ask your solicitor to clarify any unclear points.

If you aren't happy with the solicitor's answers or have other issues with the terms of the CFA, get a second opinion from another firm and compare their terms.

5. Uncompetitive success fees

By law, solicitors cannot charge a success fee greater than 25% of their client's compensation settlement.

Many solicitors charge the full 25% success fee by default, but others may only charge 19%-20% or less.

Shop around

The compensation value of a claim is often not linked to the claim's complexity. Lower-value claims can require as much work as higher-value claims.

If you have suffered relatively minor injuries, solicitors are unlikely to agree a lower success fee. However, if your claim is more serious, you should try to negotiate a lower success fee. 15% of a £50,000 settlement is obviously worth more to a solicitor than 25% of a £10,000 claim.

If the firm refuses to budge, you can always shop around for a better deal.

Read more:

Why do most injury solicitors charge 25% success fees?

6. Inflated insurance costs

After the event (ATE) insurance, is a type of legal expenses insurance that makes no win, no fee possible. ATE insurance protects claimants against the financial risks of making a no-win, no fee claim.

Without ATE insurance, you could be liable to pay your opponent's costs as well as your expenses, such as medical reports and barrister fees, if you did not win your claim.

ATE insurance is a standard component of no win, no fee. The cost of the policy is deducted from your compensation settlement. If you don’t win, you pay no solicitor's fees whatsoever.

So what’s the catch?

As with other types of insurance, ATE policies vary wildly in terms of both total cost and what they cover. The cost of a solicitor's ATE insurance is sensitive to:

  • the solicitor's own claims record,
  • the competitiveness of the ATE insurer, and
  • how hard the solicitor has negotiated with their insurer (bigger PI-focused firms can often get better rates than smaller, general law firms).

Claimants tend not to focus on insurance when starting a no win, no fee claim because the cost of the ATE insurances is only deducted if the claim is successful.

However, larger premiums can come as a shock to claimants when they see the premium deducted from their compensation.

Ask the solicitor what ATE will cost

Once a solicitor has looked at your case, ask them what the ATE insurance will likely cost. You should ask before you formally instruct the solicitor.

7. Poor communication

Solicitors who fail to provide regular updates and answer calls, letters or emails are all too common

Poor communication creates unnecessary stress for personal injury claimants and could also be an indication that your claim is not being prioritised.

Identify poor communication before you instruct

If you haven’t spoken to the person who will handle your compensation claim, what was the attitude of the people you have dealt with at the firm?

Were staff helpful, friendly and professional? The attitude of the initial 'claim vetters' is usually an indication of the culture of the firm as a whole.

The reasons for a solicitor's poor communication could be anything from short-term illness to more serious issues such as overwork or a firm in financial difficulties.

There may be no reason to panic if you haven't yet had a detailed response to your question within a day or two. That said, don't stick your head in the sand if you suspect there are underlying issues.

If you experience poor communication once your claim is underway, you can make a formal complaint through the firm’s formal complaints process, and ultimately, to the Legal Ombudsman if you are still dissatisfied.

8. Lacking experience in your type of claim

The term ‘personal injury’ covers a range of different circumstances, such as;

  • work accidents
  • road accidents
  • industrial disease, and
  • clinical negligence.

The expertise required to succeed in these different disciplines can be quite specific.

Sometimes people choose a solicitor with little or no experience in any area of personal injury whatsoever. In theory, any solicitor could handle your claim, but it may well be a mistake to instruct a family solicitor or the local high street firm that handled your house purchase.

What can you do?

When choosing a solicitor, it is essential that you check that the individual solicitor specialises in your specific type of claim.

Look for a solicitor with a proven track record in your specific type of claim.

If you are working with a CMC, ask them why they have recommended a particular solicitor.

Ask your solicitor if they have handled any compensation claims like yours before and what the outcome was. You could even ask for the solicitor to send you a case study.

Read more:

How to find the right solicitor for your injury claim

9. Failing to start legal proceedings in time

The three-year deadline to start a personal injury claim is critical. Although court proceedings, initiated by submitting a Claim Form , must occur within this timeframe, about 95% of claims are settled through out-of-court negotiations before needing to file the form. The risk lies in delaying negotiations, risking the expiration of your claim's limitation period. Once this period lapses, securing compensation becomes unlikely, as you can no longer initiate court proceedings.

What can you do?

Before instructing a solicitor, request an estimated timeline for your claim. Use this timeline to set calendar reminders. If progress stalls, call your solicitor for an update. If your claim becomes "statute-barred" due to a missed deadline, immediately begin the solicitor's formal complaint process. You might have grounds for a negligence claim against your solicitor, and in certain instances, courts may permit a claim to proceed even after the limitation date has passed.

10. Bowing to pressure from insurers

If you're injured, your insurer may suggest using their preferred solicitor, who relies on the insurer for new clients. This situation creates a conflict of interest as insurers aim to minimise compensation pay-outs. Despite solicitors' duty to prioritise the interests of their clients, commercial dependency on insurers can lead to compromises, potentially resulting in you being under-compensated.

Choose an independent personal injury solicitor

You need an independent solicitor who will fight solely for your interests. It is difficult to expect a firm with an ongoing relationship with an insurance company to always offer the same quality of unfettered advice.

Read more:

Do I have to use the insurance company's solicitor?

11. Assigning your case to a junior paralegal or inexperienced case handler

Many solicitors struggle to make a commercial success of personal injury. Under a no win, no fee agreement, the solicitor only gets paid when you do, at the end of the process, and injury claims can run for months in some cases (or even years).

In an attempt to cut costs, some firms will assign cases to junior or inexperienced case handlers as they are cheaper to employ.

This approach may not best serve your interests, particularly if your claim becomes more complex as it develops.

Insist on an experienced solicitor

You should insist that your claim is handled by a qualified solicitor with a track record in winning claims like yours.

12. Excessive workload

Some solicitors can have a caseload of over 500 live files.

During the claims process, there is a lot of waiting around for the other side, so caseloads can be surprisingly high without any compromise to service.

Nevertheless, there is a point at which the number of cases being juggled by a solicitor is simply too high to serve your best interests.

Ask the solicitor what their caseload is

You should ask the solicitor what their workload is and whether they can take yours on without buckling. You can check online for any bad reviews regarding this issue.

13. Moving too slowly

Excessive caseloads, understaffing, and poor processes are all reasons why a case might drag on.

Ask a solicitor for a timeline at the outset

Ask a solicitor for a timetable at the beginning of the process and hold them to it. If your calls and emails aren't being answered, that could mean that your case is being neglected at the 'bottom of the pile'.

Don’t stand for slow service. Make sure you are at the top of your solicitor's mind. If necessary, call them regularly and make a nuisance of yourself!

Read more:

How long does a personal injury claim take?

14. Missing an important claims process deadline

In addition to the limitation date, personal injury claims often follow a protocol of set dates. If your solicitor misses these dates, your case will drag on.

Worse still, your solicitor might miss a critical window and end up forfeiting your claim.

The solicitor also needs to inform you of appointments such as medical exams. Again if you miss these, then your case will take longer.

What can you do?

Agree how frequently your solicitor will update you. If the updates aren't made on time, call your solicitor for an update.

15. Giving poor legal advice

It is sadly not unheard of for some solicitors to provide incorrect legal advice or to overlooking details of a case.

The consequences of poor advice could mean settling too soon (or too late). You would receive less compensation than you would have got otherwise.

Ask about the solicitor's track record

Ask the solicitor about their track record. Check online reviews. If the firm has a good record, that should give you confidence.

You can also check a solicitor's record at the SRA Check a Solicitor's Record Service.

16. Under-settling your personal injury claim

Most claims are settled out of court. This means that most claims are effectively a negotiation between your solicitor and the defendant’s solicitor or insurance company.

Insurance companies are good at this, and employ specially trained negotiators to settle for the lowest amount possible.

Unless your solicitor has the requisite experience, there is a risk that the insurer will 'get the better of them', meaning you receive less compensation.

What can you do?

Again, check the solicitors track record, specialisation and the SRA website.

Check what your claim could be worth here:

How did your injury happen?

The compensation process will depend on what caused your injury. Click the icons below to learn more:

No win, no fee injury compensation claims

With no win, no fee, you can claim injury compensation without financial risk. If your claim isn't successful, you pay nothing. If you win, you only pay a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation.

Find out more about how no win, no fee claims work

Get expert advice now

Interested in talking to an injury specialist about your claim?

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Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Author:
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor