Changing Lawyers : Costs & Delays

Posted by Oliver on February 13,2017

In a previous post, it was mentioned that – for many good reasons – a change of lawyer in personal injury litigation can be necessary. Indeed, it is your absolute legal right to choose what legal representation you want for your affairs, personal injury or otherwise.

In that previous post ( http://www.compensationclaims.co/advice/changing-lawyers/) it was mentioned that it was a straightforward process of legal administration to switch lawyers. However, sometimes that is not the case. In some cases, there are unfortunate barriers to changing lawyers.

With many firms, a pattern often seen starts with the first lawyers missing an important fact in a case. From that, the conclusion is that the client does not have a good personal injury claim. The client is advised as such – and the lawyers prepare to close the file. The client requests a second opinion, or fresh legal representation, or even believes that something has been missed. The new lawyers instructed contact the previous lawyers requesting their case files. The previous lawyers should send over their records without delay and cost (excepting reasonable costs and delays due to storage and related) – but sometimes that does not happen.

In quite a few instances, some firms refuse to release the case files unless the new lawyers agree to accept responsibility for the costs incurred in working on the case, on behalf of the client. In this way, the fees and costs originally considered as lost when the case file was closed will be recoverable by the first lawyers, as those costs will be added to any settlement arrived at, either out of court or by a court order. In personal injury litigation, the defendant pays the claimant’s costs – in addition to compensation – if the claimant is successful. Under the terms of most “no with , no fee” agreements, if the claimant loses, those costs are generally cancelled.

If successful, the costs and fees incurred by the first lawyers remains payable, and is reflected in any settlement agreement. Those costs are added to the costs incurred by the second lawyers, and passed on to the original lawyers – provided that the case file is still open, and the advice was to carry on with the case.

However, if the advice was to end the litigation, or the case file was closed, in many cases, those costs and fees incurred are cancelled, and are a loss on the firm’s balance sheets. The client does not owe the first lawyers anything. As such, there is rarely good legal reason for the original firm to ask for the client – via the new lawyers – to guarantee the costs they incurred. However, those fees and costs can indirectly be recovered.

Although in many instances it is easy to transfer a personal injury claim to another lawyer, in some cases it is more difficult, or can impact upon the final settlements and agreements because of how personal injury litigation is funded and resolved finanacially. As such, some lawyers will attempt to hang on to the file, which often delays legal proceedings.

Rest assured, at CompensationClaims.co, we are proactive in transferring cases. We have many years experience in taking over personal injury cases from other legal firms as swiftly as possible, to minimise delays. Your case will be handled professionally and efficiently by our experts, and we will complete the file transfer process with the least delay or fuss possible to you. Many personal injury claims have been successfully resolved by our team at CompensationClaims.co after being transferred from other lawyers.

Contact us today to discuss transferring your personal injury claim to the personal injury experts at CompensationClaims.co.

Industrial Diseases

Posted by Oliver on February 6,2017

Industrial Diseases are essentially illnesses that an employee has contracted during the course of their work, traditionally due to exposure over a long time. In most cases, the illness can take many years to fully develop and manifest itself, or be diagnosed; but during that time the employee is still suffering.

Employers have clear and unambiguous legal obligations concerning the health and safety of their employees, with employers being held liable for any breaches of health and safety. A part of that legal duty of care involves minimising the risk of any employees contracting industrial diseases. All and every precaution must be taken to minimise the risks of any exposure to long term health hazards. These include reducing the impact of any Work Related Upper Limb Diseases (WRULD), minimising the exposure to loud noises, and proper safety equipment and training to reduced the risk of industrial sector illnesses such Vibration White Finger. Asbestos and related conditions are also often classified as an industrial disease.

The problem for employer and employee alike is that such illnesses take a long time to develop and manifest themselves in obvious symptoms. It can also be hard to pinpoint the exact moment or point in time that any negligence occurred that resulted in the employee being injured – or indeed the exact activity. As such, claims against an employer for any suffering due to an industrial disease is handled differently; for example, in many cases the tradional three year statute of limitations for personal injury claims is extended.

As such, tackling industrial diseases is an ongoing matter of health and safety at work. Safety equipment, proper training, breaks, equipment maintenance and similar are all part of efforts taken by management to avoid employees suffering from any industrial diseases. In most cases, the law places the burden of responsibility and liability upon employers if any employee does suffer from Carpal tunnel syndrome, Asbestosis or similar.

The symptoms can occur gradually, over time. However, if suspected, prompt  medical attention and diagnosis is vital. It is important to keep any medical records and diagnoses of any industrial disease, and to obtain supporting evidence and records from the place of work in question, to prove that the illness was indeed contracted at work, over time.

If that is proved to be the case – then it is the employee’s right to seek compensation for their illness, and to take legal action against the employer for their negligence. The law surrounding any such industrial disease litigation can be complicated. As such, it is best to have an expert lawyer representing your claim. At CompensationClaims.co, our lawyers have been handling any number and type of industrial disease compensation claims for many years.

Contact the experts at CompensationClaims.co today to find out more.

Medical Negligence : Informed Consent

Posted by Oliver on January 31,2017

Under law, a doctor or healthcare practitioner has a legal duty of care towards their patients, and their health and well-being. When advising a patient as to medical courses of action for treating ailments and injuries, a further legal and medical doctrine comes into effect, that of informed consent.

The leading cases of Sidaway v. Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital [1985] AC 871, Chester v Afshar [2004] UKHL 41 and now Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015] UKSC 11 have set out that obligation. Essentially, the doctor must must fully inform and instruct the patient regarding the risks of any procedure, regardless of how small that risk is. The patient must be fully understanding and accepting of the risks of any medical procedure, and must give their consent prior to any procedure being carried out. In the case that the patient is in a coma, or does not have the mental capacity to understand and make an informed decision – there are other medical and legal rules which come into effect.

Under that duty of care, healthcare practitioners must make every effort to ensure that all procedures are carried out in a manner that is as safe to the patient as possible. The patient, however, must accept and understand that there is an element of risk. As times have changed, modern medicine and medical science is ever more advanced, and can treat an increased array of ailments with great success. However, increasingly more and more delicate and intrusive medical procedures are needed. The scope for error with such complicated procedures is still present.

With Montgomery, medical law has caught up with advances in the medical sector, and has set out the principal of informed consent for the 21st Century, according doctors and patients greater legal protection. Such rules have also seen a subtle shift in the doctor / patient relationship.

Despite such legal protections, it is easy for omissions to occur. Without knowing the risks and side affects, a patient cannot give informed consent. A failure of the healthcare practitioner to fully and clearly define the risks of any procedure runs the risk of legal action – especially if something does happen, and the patient suffers accordingly.

Under their medical duty of care, doctors are obliged to set out all and every risk; failure to do that is in breach of that duty of care, and is considered professional negligence. From that, a claim for personal injury can be made against the doctor or healthcare practitioner, as they will held legally liable for that omission and their (implied) negligence.

Informed consent and medical negligence are tricky and specialist areas of personal injury law. However, our lawyers at CompensationClaims.co have many years experience in successfully handling medical negligence claims – including those where there was no informed consent given by the patient.

Employers & Duty of Care

Posted by Oliver on January 24,2017

Employers have many legal obligations and duties towards their emloyees.

These duties are set out in various statutes and regulations. Of those many duties of employers, the four key established ones are:

1. The legal duty to provide a safe system of work, and safe working practices

2. The legal duty to provide a safe place of work, and to ensure that health and safety legislation is complied with

3. The legal  duty to provide competent employees in the workplace  

4. The legal duty to provide adequate safety systems and PPE, as required 

These four duties are quite arguably the cornerstone of law in England & Wales regarding health and safety at work. With the idea of preventing devasting accidents at work, of those the first one is particularly significant. The concept of providing a safe system of work was defined in Speed v Thomas Swift & Co [1943] KB 557. Quoting from the verdict:

“…the physical lay-out of the job – the setting of the stage, so to speak – the sequence in which the work is to be carried out, the provision in proper cases of warnings and notices and the issue special instructions. A system may be adequate for the whole course of the job or it may have to be modified or improved to meet the circumstances which arise”

That duty of care does not just include devising a safe system of work, but also enforcing it. Employers are required to enforce safe working practices; if there is an accident at work, and it is to me that the cause was employees not following correct and safe procedures, then the employer is still liable. However, there is here a delicate balancing act between the employer’s duty to ensure that a safe system of work is actually being implemented, and the concept of vicarious liability of the employer for the negligent actions of another employee. Both are slightly different under law – but still create duties and labilities. In McDermid v Nash Dredging and Reclamation Co. Ltd [1987] AC 906, a sailor was injured when the Captain himself failed to follow a safe system of working practice. Throughout the litigation, questions of such vicarious liability for the Captain’s actions were considered, but ultimately the House of Lords found that the duty to provide a safe system of work is non-delegable.

What that means is that in addition to devising a safe system of work, the employer is also liable if those safe working practices are not adhered to. As such, overall responsibities for health and safety can never be fully delegated to employees. Simply leaving employees to enforce safe working practices may, if there is an accident at work, not only result in claims of liability against the employee in question vicariously, but also will be legally consodered as the employer being negligent in their own duties regarding health and safety.

Employment law, and personal injury law, is full of cases essentially proving the same point, or variations on the same theme: employers will almost always have overall liability and responsibility for all aspects of health and safety of employees. That rule may vary slightly, but it is a general liability of employers towards employees that can usually never be fully delegated. As such, that duty of care is particularly – and deliberately – wide.

If you have been injured in an accident at work that was not your fault, although it may have been caused by another employee, when considering any legal claim after the accident, in many cases the employer will also automatically bear a degree of responsibility. If you have been injured in an accident at work within the last three years and want to find out more, contact the personal injury specialists at CompensationClaims.co today.

Changing Lawyers

Posted by Oliver on January 18,2017

During any legal claim or case, there are any number of reasons why it might become necessary to change your legal representatives.

For whatever reason, the client might feel not adequately represented in court by their lawyer, or might have lost confidence in them. Another common reason is a breakdown in communication and trust between the client and their lawyer. The lawyer might not be communicating details or progress about the case satisfactorily. Any of those or many other reasons might inspire someone to seek someone else to represent them in court.

The question is – how do you change lawyers half way through a case?

The first thing is always to try to work through any differences. Discuss your concerns with your current solicitor first, to see if any issues or misunderstandings can be cleared up. If that does not work, or if you area still not convinced by your current solicitor – then it is your right to seek different legal representation.

Changing solicitors is actually easier than many imagine. Essentially, once fresh legal representation has been found, the old law firm closes their case files, and ends them to the new lawyers, who open their own files and resume where the old firm left off. At first, there needs to be good communication between the two firms to ensure a seamless transition of the case, and to ensure that all information is transferred over. In the vast majority of cases, there is very little for the client to do, except to sign contractual agreements, and agreements to transfer personal information between the two firms. As far as costs are concerned, again in the vast majority of cases, there are few costs, as the new firm usually agrees to cover the fees and costs incurred by the old law firm – which is reflected in any fees paid by you to the new firm, or funding agreements.

After the change, the legal proceedings will resume as normal – but just with new lawyers.

At CompensationClaims.co, we have received many such transferred files every year. We are always happy to represent those won have suffered personal injury, either from the beginning of their legal claim, or half way through a case. When a file is transferred, we will ensure that we are able to fully and adequately represent you in a timely and efficient manner. Our experienced lawyers will handle your transferred case with the utmost dedication and professionalism. It it that dedication and professionalism that makes many people choose to transfer their personal injury claim to CompensationClaims.co every year.

To find out more, contact the personal injury experts at CompensationClaims.co today.

Cap on Whiplash Claims Aims to Cut Insurance Premiums

Posted by admin on November 21,2016

An effort by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to put caps on whiplash claims should result in lower insurance premiums. The Ministry of justice is consulting on a number of potential measures designed to cut the amount of money claimed through whiplash compensation, and motor insurers have reportedly stated that they intend to pass on the money they save from reduced claims to policy holders.

The MoJ reports that car accident compensation claims for whiplash are up by 50% compared to the levels seen ten years ago, despite accident numbers dropping over the same period. The Ministry of Justice hopes that by cracking down on what it sees as an excess of claims, including many fraudulent, minor, or deliberately exaggerated claims, it could save insurers a total of £1 billion in paying out for whiplash compensation. Adjusting motor insurance premiums to reflect this could save the average motorist £40 each year.

In order to reduce the amount paid out for minor injuries, the proposals that the MoJ is currently consulting on suggest that the right to compensation could be removed or there could be a cap placed on the amount of compensation payable on minor claims. At present, the average compensation award is £1,850, but the proposed cap would see this cut so that a payout could not exceed £425. More serious claims could see the introduction of a new, transparent system of tariffs for compensation awards.

It has also been proposed that claims require medical evidence in order for compensation to be paid, with a ban placed on any offer to settle a compensation claim without medical evidence being provided. If implemented, this proposal would see a report confirming the industry from a MedCo-recognised medical expert become an absolute prerequisite for receiving compensation.

Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, said that “some have exploited a rampant compensation culture and seen whiplash claims an easy payday, driving up costs for millions of law-abiding motorists.”

“These reforms,” Truss continued, “will crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent claims.”

Simon Kirby, economic secretary to the treasury, also spoke in favour of taking steps to curb the number of whiplash claims. Kirby said: “One whiplash claim is paid out every 60 seconds and it is unacceptable that responsible motorists have to pick up the tab.”

Data from, the AA suggests that the average amount paid by a motorist for one year’s comprehensive cover is now roughly £500. Over just the past year, the cost of motor insurance has risen by 16.3%, increasing the average premium by just under £82. Claims for whiplash compensation, the AA said, represented one of the factors driving this increase.

Under law and democratic principle, it is the absolute right of any worker to join their respective trade union, and to play an active part in union politics and activism. Indeed, Trade Unions have launched many a (Labour) political career, including Lord John Prescott and former Labour Speaker of the House of Commons Michael ‘Gorbals Mike’ Martin.  It is not for any employer or industry to sideline union activists, or to treat them differently due to such activities; to do so is morally and legally questionable.

 

A long running legal dispute in this regard before the High Court was finally settled in early May. With legal action ongoing, it was announced that hundreds of construction workers (of all trades) who had been blacklisted by major construction companies for being active union members had reached an out of court settlement with the companies concerned. The blacklisted workers will now receive an undisclosed sum, estimated to be in the region of £50m. Some blacklisted workers have been awarded damages in between £25,000 and £200,000. The construction companies will also pay the legal fees incurred after four years of court hearings and legal actions.

 

The agreement was reached between leading construction companies and nearly 420 trade unionists. A further 90 activists have yet to teach such an agreement, and will have their case decided in court. With a further 150 workers having already arrived at out of court settlements,  this settlement brings to over 600 the number of trade union activists who have been compensated following an illegal blacklisting scheme run by major construction firms.

 

Construction companies would illegally run the names of prospective workers (of all trades) through extensive files held to see if the employee was a ‘troublemaker’ – a trade union activist, someone who raised concerns over safety on building sites, and similar. The files and blacklist were run from an office in Droitwich, Worcestershire, and contained details and confidential files on 3,200 construction workers, with extensive information on their working lives and union activities. It was not uncommon for many construction workers to end up on that blacklist – and to be effectively denied employment by companies and agencies.

 

Many workers spent often lengthy times without work. It was only in 2006 that construction industry manager Alan Wainwright blew the whistle. Hecexposed the existance of the blacklist, publicised how it operated, and revealed the names of the blacklisted workers on a website. That led to an investigation and article by the Guardian newspaper in 2008, and an investigation in by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

 

The ICO – a national information watchdog and regulatory body- raided the offices of the Consulting Association, where the blacklist was maintained. Ian Kerr, the (now deceased) manager of the operation was fined £5,000 for data protection offences. Mr Wainwright himself subsequently brought legal action against 35 major construction companies, claiming that he was being denied work and being victimised for his own part in revealing the blacklist.

 

Another construction worker, Steve Acheson, started as an electrical apprentice in 1969. His work history includes the Channel Tunnel and large scale projects in the Middle East. However, recent years have seen him struggle to find work. It later transpired that he was on the blacklist himself, considered a ‘troublemaker’ due to his trade union activism. Since the investigations, he has been most active in seeking justice, and has led many campaigns and legla actions against the companies invoked. Currently the Chair of the Blacklist Support Group – who represented the workers in court hearings –  Mr Acheson said of the recent settlement that “what has already been achieved is a massive victory for the trade union movement, but the fight is not over yet… Until such time that the the full conspiracy is exposed and those responsible for the human rights abuse are called to account in a court of law, we will never stop fighting.”

 

Indeed, for the last 30 years it has been illegal to dismiss a worker for their trade union activities; it is regularly considered that any form of blacklisting is also illegal. Blacklisting was included in the Employment Relations Act (1999); however, discreetly the Labour government of the time never formally brought in the required regulations to bring it into law. As such, blacklisting remains legal very much on a technicality.

 

The legal challenge raised by the construction workers has been ongoing, considering this very point, for the last four years. 30 companies (and four senior executives) have been accused of complicity with the blacklisting operation, including such major firms as Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McApline, Skanska UK and Vinci. Last October the companies named admitted at preliminary hearings that the blacklist was unlawful, and apologised to those affected.

 

After the compensation settlement was announced, the workers released a short statement. Represented throughout proceedings by the GMB and Ucatt trade unions and lawyers Guney, Clark & Ryan, the workers in their statement said that the construction companies had offered financial settlements, including legal costs, which the construction workers had “accepted as fair and reasonable”. Evidence and further details of the inner workings of the blacklist will be disclosed if the remaining group of workers who have yet to settle have their case heard before the High Court. Negotiations and the remaining case itself is still ongoing.

The Ministry of Justice has recently announced they are to crackdown on the number of compensation claims made by prison inmates.  The news comes after it has been revealed that the number of cases brought forward by prisoners has almost doubled in one year alone.

There were just under 14,000 compensation claim payouts last year, and the cost of these reached near £29 million.

In the year prior to it, litigation costs were more in the region of £21 million.  The bill takes account of the cost of legal advice, administration, representation and any payouts for claims made.

Dominic Raab, the Justice Minister who has commissioned this new audit into thousands of compensation claims, hopes to rid the system of bogus claims.  He announced: “We want public money focused on protecting the public and reforming offenders”.

Others are commenting on how long overdue this crackdown is.  The General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Steve Gillian remarked that they “welcome any tightening up of spurious compensation claims as some of the settlements to prisoners have been ridiculous.”  He continued: “Most claims are frivolous… the MoJ appeal even to the Supreme Court when a member of staff is claiming injury, yet they appear to want to settle every claim a prisoner makes”.

The claims that prisoners make are wide ranging, from personal injury through assault to claims for invasion of privacy.

One example is of a 27 year old convicted murderer, who has sued for compensation twice in the space of two years, and been awarded damages both times to the combined amount of almost £2000.  His claims are based on his personal items, which included CDs, having been damaged by prison guards.

Another example, which if successful could cost the MoJ thousands, is of a prisoner claiming he has been bitten by a rat inside his cell.

In other cases, even where money is not awarded to the complainants, the MoJ still has to spend a large amount of money in legal defense.  It is hoped these new measures will pave the way to a more careful spend of government funding.

The Autumn Statement 2015: Whiplash Claim Reforms

Posted by admin on December 4,2015

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this November 2015 has dramatically changed the way personal injury whiplash claims will be dealt with.  Under the new plans, all cash payments in compensation for minor whiplash claims will be banned.

When the changes come into effect, anyone who suffers from minor whiplash after an accident will only get offered medical treatment and physiotherapy from their insurance company.  There is to be an increase in the upper limit from £1000 to £5000 for the small claims courts too.  Also, those involved in more serious crashes would still be entitled to compensation payouts for their more serious injuries.

Osborne stated the move should tackle the ‘compensation culture around minor motor accident injuries’.

The changes are a result of increased backlash against the cash for claims fraudsters who in total are estimated to cost the car insurance industry around £1 bn every year in false claims.  Currently, over 1000 whiplash claims are made every day in Britain according to the British Insurance Brokers Association – many of which are fraudulent.  The feeling is that the ready availability of money for whiplash incidents encourages people to make such false claims – and because of the nature of whiplash injuries, which are difficult to disprove, it is an easy target for fraudsters.

Insurance giant RSA’s chief Steve Lewis stated: “Our customers have for too long paid the price for a dysfunctional system that does not operate in their interests… These measures will go a long way to ensure that access to justice and care is maintained whilst reducing premiums.”

The reforms to the system are hoped to reduce premiums for motorists by around £40-50 on an annual car insurance policy, as the car insurance industry say that they are keen to pass on the saving to customers.  Whether it happens remains to be seen.

 

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