Can I Change Personal Injury Solicitors?12th Apr 2018
The outcome of your personal injury or medical negligence case can depend very much on your choice of solicitor. Making sure you have an expert in the field who you can trust with the sensitive nature of your case is paramount.
Yet the period following an accident or injury is often hectic and stressful, and your main concern at the time may be simply finding someone to take on your case and recover the damages as soon as possible.
After weeks, months, or even years of working on your case, you may come to realise that the solicitor you instructed was not the right person for the job.
Not all personal injury solicitors have the same level of expertise. A solicitor who specialises in simple slips, trips and falls is not likely to have experience of complex brain or spinal injury cases, or be a specialist in cauda equina syndrome or TVT surgery that has gone wrong.
Many people worry that it might be too difficult or even impossible to change their personal injury solicitor – even if they are dissatisfied with the service they have received.
However, there’s actually very little stopping you from changing your personal injury lawyer if you want to.
Why You Might Want To Change Solicitor
There is an almost inexhaustible list of reasons you may wish to change your solicitor. Here are some of the most common motives when it comes to personal injury claims:
- you may be experiencing a lack of regular updates or poor communication from your appointed solicitor and therefore feel out of the loop on your case
- the case might not be progressing at the speed that you had expected or desired, or you’re experiencing regular delays
- the solicitor is not providing sufficient support for you and/or your family members
- you might not be happy with the solicitor’s valuation of your claim
- you’re dealing with a big firm and find yourself speaking with a different ‘case handler’ every time you make contact, when you would rather have a single point of contact who is a qualified solicitor
- for the same reason, you may be concerned about the quality of advice you are receiving if you don’t have contact with a qualified legal professional
- some firms opt for a ‘churn and burn’ system where they try to settle clients’ cases out of court as quickly as possible to make room for the next client, and so you might feel pressured into quickly accepting a compensation figure which you may think is insufficient
- if another party has already admitted liability, a good solicitor would seek for an interim payment to help cover medical treatment, care and loss of earnings. If your solicitor has not done this, you might decide to look elsewhere
- the firm handling your case may not have the financial means to continue to progress your case.
Whatever the circumstances, you are entitled to choose a new solicitor and transfer the handling of your case to them. The process is much more straightforward that you might think.
What To Consider When Changing Solicitor
There are several common concerns around changing solicitors in personal injury cases:
Will I still have to have contact with my previous solicitor?
One of the main worries for many people is simply having the uncomfortable conversation with their previous solicitor to tell them that they no require their services.
There is no reason to be concerned about this – if you don’t want any further contact with your old solicitor, you don’t have to. Your new solicitor will be happy to notify your original solicitor of your decision and arrange for paperwork to be transferred. You simply need to sign a form to authorise this.
If your previous solicitor tries to contact you, you can just refer all correspondence to your new solicitor to handle.
What about the costs I’ve already incurred with my previous solicitor?
Most personal injury and medical negligence cases are handled on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis – also known as a conditional fee agreement – which means you do not have to pay any upfront costs; the solicitor will collect their success fee after you have won your case.
Alternatively, you may have legal expenses cover under a personal insurance policy, or you may be a member of a trade union which would help fund your case. It’s rare for people to pay solicitors on a retainer basis for personal injury claims.
If you want to change your solicitor, your original solicitor should accept what is known as a ‘lien’ on costs, where they will recover their costs from your new solicitor at the end of your case.
It’s very rare for a solicitor to ask for their costs to be paid prior to transferring your case to your new solicitor – this would add insult to injury at an already very trying time.
Will I lose my legal expenses cover?
If you are funding your case through legal expenses cover – which often comes with your home or motor insurance – you might be worried that you’ll lose this cover if you switch solicitors.
People are often concerned about this because they have gone with the firm of the solicitors that they were referred to by their insurer. Beware! It’s financially advantageous to the insurers if you work with their ‘panel’ of solicitors.
You are legally entitled to choose your own solicitor. In the vast majority of cases you do not have to choose the insurer’s solicitors in order to still be covered by your legal expenses insurance.
In rare cases, the insurers may refuse to cover your legal costs before a case goes to court, but they cannot continue to do so once court proceedings begin.
In fact, it’s enshrined in European legislation that any insured person is free to choose their own lawyer once a case gets to this stage.
Will I lose my trade union funding?
If you’re a member of a trade union, you may be entitled to free or reduced cost legal representation with certain solicitors.
There is nothing stopping you from changing solicitors if you want to. But generally in these circumstances you are not able to transfer the cover provided by the trade union.
However, you still don’t have to be out of pocket. You can set up a conditional fee agreement (CFA) with a new solicitor.
Changing solicitors should not be an onerous task. If your old solicitor tries to make the process difficult for you, please inform the Legal Ombudsman – they do not accept this kind of behaviour.
What To Look For In A New Solicitor
If you’re feeling frustrated with your current solicitor, you may be inclined to instruct another one quickly just to not have to deal with them anymore. However, you could easily end up in the same situation again – with a solicitor who is not right for you and your case.
Take the time to carry out research. Instruct a firm of solicitors who have the relevant expertise to be able to handle your claim effectively.
It should go without saying that the solicitor you instruct should be a personal injury or medical negligence specialist who has undertaken rigorous training and has several years of experience in these claims. Check that the firm uses qualified solicitors, and not just ‘claims handlers’ who are not legally qualified.
It’s also a good idea to find a solicitor who has been accredited as an expert in the field by an independent body. You should keep an eye out for the Legal 500 (the guide to Britain’s top lawyers), the Law Society’s Personal Injury Accreditation and accreditations from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
A good solicitor will offer you a free initial chat to discuss your case, how you will fund your claim and any personal needs and requirements, including securing interim payments to help with your rehabilitation.
How To Change Your Solicitor
It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3:
- Make an informed decision to change solicitor, after considering all of the points above.
- Choose a new solicitor, make contact and have an initial appointment to make sure you are happy with your choice.
- Your new solicitor will give you a Form of Authority to complete and sign. They will send this to your previous solicitor to authorise the release of all your paperwork for your case. They will then send the paperwork to your new solicitor.
Whether you have had a road traffic accident, suffered an accident at work, been injured playing sports or tripped in a public place, make sure you instruct an expert solicitor that you can trust with your claim.
If you’re thinking about changing your solicitor, get in touch with Coles Miller today to discuss your case.
Our dedicated personal injury and medical negligence teams have more than 50 years’ experience in these kinds of claims and are happy to offer no win, no fee funding agreements. We also provide a no obligation, free initial consultation for every client.