Damages without tears

No-win, no-fee legal schemes offer personal injury victims fresh hope in court.

There is no amount of money that can adequately compensate a personal injury victim for the loss suffered. What is even more galling is when prohibitively high legal fees prevent those victims from enforcing their rights. However, as those now pursuing a case against the tobacco companies know, lack of funds or fear of bankruptcy need not always be an obstacle to pursuing a claim.

These litigants have entered into what are commonly known as "no-win no-fee" agreements. There are a number of schemes now available that offer help to potential litigants.

Until last year, personal injury claimants had fewer options. If they were wealthy enough they could fund their own lawsuit, or they might have legal expenses insurance or be funded by a trades union.

The other option, for those of extremely modest means, was to apply for legal aid. Outside these categories lay a large group of people for whom the costs of litigation and the fear and cost of losing were too high. An unsuccessful litigant is responsible not only for his own legal costs but also for a substantial proportion of the other side's.

Last year a change in the law helped those people who were falling through the net. Solicitors were, for the first time, allowed to charge conditional fees. In return for taking the risk of getting paid nothing, the claimant's solicitors negotiate a success fee if the case is won.

The risk of bearing the other side's costs if the case fails has been addressed by introducing a one-off insurance premium payment to cover this risk. The Law Society Accident Line Protect, which was launched last year, offers such a policy at a one-off payment of pounds 85. Once the litigant has paid the insurance premium, he or she has no need to worry further about legal fees.

As part of its service the Law Society operates a free legal advice line. The helpline will put the caller in touch with a specialist solicitor who, the Law Society assures us, has "proven competence in accident compensation cases". The Law Society maintains a list of personal injury specialists.

The solicitor will provide a free consultation without any obligation. The Law Society points out: "If the solicitor advises you to go ahead ... it means that he or she is confident that the case is likely to succeed. There is no need to worry about how much it will cost." This is because claimants that lose are under no obligation to pay their own legal adviser's fees, and the other side's costs should be covered by the terms of the insurance policy.

According to the Law Society: "Insurance companies all too often benefit from people's ignorance. In one case, a man was disabled for life. He was offered pounds 50,000, but his solicitor told him this was inadequate. At the last minute, at the door of the court, the insurance company changed its offer to pounds 250,000 and paid all legal costs."

Before commencing a personal injury claim, a potential litigant should ascertain from his solicitor how good the case is; the likely damages in the event of success; eligibility for legal aid. If the litigant decides to enter into a conditional-fee arrangement it may be worth shopping around in order to establish which firm is prepared to offer the most competitive deal.

The Law Society's agreement provides that the success fee (which is the percentage mark-up on the legal fees and is negotiable) should not be more than 25 per cent of the damages awarded or settlement negotiated.

The National Solicitors' Network also operates a service for personal injury litigants. The organisation has negotiated on behalf of its clients a one-off insurance premium covering them for legal costs if they lose the case of up to pounds 25,000.

The insurance cover requires a one-off insurance premium of pounds 175 plus insurance premium tax. Cover for costs of up to pounds 50,000 is available at a slightly higher premium.

Tom Goodman, a solicitor and personal injury specialist with the London law firm David Levene & Co, comments: "Conditional fee arrangements are a means for people who do not qualify for legal aid to pursue valid claims without the fear of facing huge legal costs if they lose"n Accident Line Protect: 0500 192939 National Solicitors' Network: 0171-244 6422

Suggested Topics
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
newsTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Money is slipping through our fingers: the UK is falling behind other countries in the amount we put away

How to save money: UK is crashing down the European league table for putting money away

The UK has slipped to 11th in the latest European league table of savers. Rob Griffin checks out the best options

Energy firms found guilty of bad practice could have licences revoked under Labour government

Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, says a Labour government would create a new energy regulator

A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university

Fresh from A-level delight, the moment does not have to be soured by students resigning themselves to thousands of pounds worth of debt in three years' time. Rob Griffin sees how to pass the university challenge

'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi is under pressure to launch promised stimulus before the EU slides further
Love but not marriage: property is one area where cohabiting couples are in danger of losing out

How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting

People who simply live together cannot assume they have the same rights to each other's assets as spouses or civil partners. Michelle McGagh sees how they can protect their financial interests

India could be jewel in the crown for investors

With a new government and an ambitious prime minister, the country offers the prospect of strong returns. But there may be hiccups ahead, warns Simon Read

Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?

Reforms to the vexed question of child support payments by absent parents mean extra charges for both sides. Neasa Macerlean reports

Barclays's new life insurance heralds a revolution on the high street

The new product marks a shift towards 'clear, straightforward and standardised' banking products, says Simon Read

How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again

Are you worried about your portfolio? Nick Paler asks fund managers and investment insiders for advice
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

    £450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

    Project Manager - Pensions

    £32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone