Can I get legal aid for a personal injury claim?
Legal aid is no longer available in the area of personal injury law, but No Win, No Fee agreements can reduce the financial risks of making a claim.
Legal aid is a form of government funding that helps people who cannot afford legal representation meet the costs of legal advice. It has a long history in English and Wales, but was abolished for most personal injury claims in the year 2000.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid was introduced just after the Second World War as a way of giving people on low incomes fair access to the legal system. Over the years, it has offered a financial lifeline to people caught up in the criminal justice system, as well as those bringing claims in the areas of family law, housing, employment, immigration, mental health and debt.
In England and Wales, legal aid is administered by the Legal Aid Agency, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. Funding comes from the Treasury.
Is legal aid available for personal injury claimants?
In 2000, the government abolished the right to legal aid in personal injury law cases. The cut-off was deemed necessary because more than 700,000 legal aid claimants a year were bringing claims in this area of law alone, and the cost to the public purse was spiralling out of control.
What is the alternative to legal aid?
Before abolishing legal aid for personal injury claims, the government introduced the concept of conditional fee agreements, more commonly known as No Win, No Fee. Conditional fee agreements ensure that people can still sue for compensation after an accident that was not their fault, regardless of their income.
Under No Win, No Fee, the claimant's solicitor only charges a fee if the claimant wins the case. In years past, the claimant's legal fees were added to the defendant's bill. Today, thanks to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the lawyer's success fee and some expenses must come from the claimant's award. The legal success fee can cost up to, but no more than, 25% of the compensation. Quittance's panel of solicitors work on a strict no win no fee basis meaning claimants pay no fees whatsoever if their claim is not successful.
Many claimants are also encouraged to purchase after-the-event insurance to pay for any out of pocket expenses and the defendant's legal costs if they lose the case. The combination of No Win, No Fee and ATE insurance ensures that claimants have total financial protection when making a personal injury claim.
The impact of abolishing legal aid on personal injury law
Personal injury solicitors who offer a conditional fee agreements will stringently vet potential clients to make sure they have a good chance of winning before taking on the claim. This cuts the number of frivolous claims entering the legal system while still allowing people on lower incomes to access the area of personal injury law - a situation many people regard as a win-win.