Can I get legal aid for a personal injury compensation claim?
Legal aid is a form of government funding available to people who cannot afford legal representation. Legal aid has not been available to personal injury claimants since 2000, but no win, no fee agreements remove the financial risks of making a claim.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid was introduced after the Second World War as a way of giving people on low incomes fair access to the legal system. Over the years, legal aid 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.
Is legal aid available to personal injury claimants?
No. In 2000, the government abolished the right to legal aid for personal injury law cases. The measure was deemed necessary as over 700,000 personal injury claims were being funded by legal aid every year. As such, the cost to the public purse was spiraling out of control.
Is no win, no fee the alternative to legal aid?
Before abolishing legal aid for personal injury claims, the government introduced Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs).
Conditional Fee Agreements (more commonly known as no win, no fee), ensure that people can still make a legal compensation claim if injured in an accident that was not their fault - regardless of their income.
Under a no win, no fee agreement, your solicitor will only charge you a legal fee if your claim is successful.
Before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was enacted in 2013, a successful claimant's legal fees were paid by the defendant.
Since LASPO, solicitors are paid a success fee (as opposed to hourly legal fees) if they win a claim. Success fees and certain expenses are deducted from the claimant's compensation.
This success fee is usually a percentage of the total compensation award or settlement. In most cases, the success fee will be 25%, this % being the maximum allowed by the Ministry of Justice.
So I will lose 25% of my compensation if I win?
Not exactly. There will usually be a 25% success fee deduction from your compensation total. However, if you make a claim on a no win, no fee basis, your compensation total is increased by 10% to offset the impact of the success fee deduction. The 10% increase was introduced by the courts after changes to the law in 2013.
What if I lose my claim?
If your claim is unsuccessful you would be liable to pay the defendant's legal fees, costs and disbursements. You would also have to pay your own expenses, such as travel costs, medical reports, and barrister's fees
To protect you against this potential liability, your solicitor will take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy at the beginning of the claim process. ATE insurance is a standard part of all no win, no fee agreements.
Without ATE insurance, you would be liable to pay the defendant's legal fees, costs and disbursements, if your claim is not successful. You would also have to pay your own expenses, such as travel costs, medical reports, and barrister's fees.
You only pay for the ATE policy if your claim is successful, in which case the cost is deducted from your compensation. If you lose your claim you do not have to pay for the policy - so making a claim really can be completely no win, no fee.
Please note, under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.
The impact of abolishing legal aid on personal injury claimants
Before accepting your claim on a conditional fee (no win, no fee) basis, your solicitor will carry out a risk assessment. This risk assessment will seek to confirm that you have a good chance of winning before your claim is accepted. The process also reduces the number of 'spurious' claims entering the legal system, while allowing injured people on lower incomes to seek legal representation.
The compensation claims process will depend on where and how your injury occurred. Click the icons below for more information:
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Questions about the injury claims process?
Get all the answers in our comprehensive FAQ section:
- How will a personal injury claim affect my benefits?
- Will I have to pay tax on my injury compensation award?
- Can I make a personal injury claim for someone else?
- Can I claim injury compensation if there were no witnesses?
- Can I make an injury claim if I don't know who's to blame?
Helen Goddard, Legal researcher
About the author
Helen is an award-winning legal researcher and author. She is an experienced court litigation report proofreader and has written extensively on legal matters.