Lawyers argue injured claimants are intimidated by the defence

Concerned woman on the phone

Solicitors acting on behalf of injury claimants with serious injuries have argued that some clients are being intimidated by lawyers acting for the defence. This news comes following recent revelations of similar conduct from defence lawyers acting in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Post Office workers put under pressure

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is investigating claims that lawyers acting for the Post Office were intimidating postal workers affected by the Horizon scandal. The SRA is reviewing the 'tone and nature' of letters sent to sub-postmasters entitled to receive compensation in the aftermath of the scandal.

Lawyers acting for the Post Office allegedly attempted to impose confidentiality clauses on victims, leaving postal workers fearful to seek legal advice and support, and preventing them from comparing the compensation offer they received with other affected workers.

The SRA confirmed that they would hold off taking formal action until after the Post Office Inquiry was complete, and that it may bring proceedings against certain solicitors or firms.

Are injury claimants also being intimidated?

The Forum of Complex Injury Solicitors (FOCIS) is a group of solicitors who act for claimants with serious and complex injuries. FOCIS have said that the pressure felt by intimidated postal workers will be familiar to some of their clients.

FOCIS argued "clients of FOCIS members… face offers put in terms that are intimidating to the claimants many of whom are vulnerable, including those lacking mental capacity".

Offers allegedly include very short deadlines for acceptance, and the threat of considerable legal costs if the offer is not quickly accepted. Offers were also made prior to medical evidence being gathered, making it unlikely that the offer correctly reflects the claimant’s actual needs, losses and entitlement to damages for the full extent of their injury.

There are 'shining examples'

FOCIS also applauded the collaborative approach of many defence lawyers who do not employ these tactics. The majority of injury claims follow standard protocols and timescales, making it unlikely that claimants will be put under undue pressure.

Unfortunately, the standard protocols are not applied to the most serious and complex injury claims, as these cases often require more time to gather medical and other evidence, to ensure claimants receive the correct compensation. FOCIS’s concern underscores why it is so important that claimants seek legal advice and representation at the very earliest opportunity.

Once claimants instruct their own solicitor, their lawyer will advise them of their rights, and confirm whether any offer proposed by the defendants is reasonable. The claimant's lawyer will negotiate with the other side to ensure the final agreed amount is suitable and sufficient to cover their client’s losses and ongoing treatment and support needs.

How to avoid the risk of intimidation

The simple answer is to instruct your own solicitor as soon as possible.

Don’t rely on general legal advice (or AI) to guide you, as any advice you receive will not be tailored to your situation, and may be flat out wrong.

Online injury calculators can give you a helpful indication of what your claim could be worth, but they are not a substitute for professional advice from a specialist solicitor. The vast majority of injury claims are handled on a no win, no fee basis, meaning there is no financial risk to you, and no reason not to instruct a solicitor early.

Are you being put under pressure to settle or accept an offer?

In some cases, such as an accident at work, the employer or other party will be under an obligation to quickly notify their insurance company about the accident. In turn, the insurer may instruct a solicitor to contact you and perhaps even make an offer of compensation.

If you have received a letter from a solicitor, don’t be put off by the legal jargon or by what appear to be strict timescales. Although some lawyers may use legalese to intimidate clients, many firms simply use stock legal terminology without any intention to mislead or pressurise the reader.

If possible, you should instruct a solicitor as soon as you receive any correspondence at all, from your employer, their insurance company, or their solicitor. Don’t reply until you have received professional legal advice.

Why might an early offer be made?

There are legitimate reasons why a defendant might make an early, pre-medical offer, to save both sides from incurring legal expenses and to settle the matter quickly.

Depending on the nature of your injury, and on your financial circumstances, you may be tempted to accept an early offer. Gathering medical evidence and managing the claims process can take time, and you may prefer simply to have the matter dealt with.

Even if you believe you have received a fair compensation offer, it is still recommended that you get your own legal representative to review the offer. Once you accept, you cannot claim more compensation later if your symptoms persist or worsen and you discover you have under-settled your claim.

Read more:

Should I accept a pre-medical offer?

I under-settled my claim, what can I do?

Chris Salmon, Director

Chris Salmon, Director