Accident legal advice to be sharpened up

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The Independent Online
YOU DO not usually get something for nothing from a solicitor, but you will be soon be able to get free, high-quality legal advice on accident claims.

On 27 June, Accident Line will be launched by the Law Society. It is a revamped and much improved version of the existing Accident Legal Advice Service (Alas), also run by the Law Society.

Solicitors who participate in Accident Line will offer a free 30-minute initial interview to assess if you can claim against someone for your accident. The scheme covers everything from accidents at work to tripping over a faulty pavement.

It is a useful service - not least because you should be able to get good advice at the outset about whether your claim is worth pursuing and what sort of financial compensation you can expect.

The main problem with the current Alas is that any kind of solicitor can join the scheme - one day a conveyancer, the next an accident lawyer. In legal terms too, a jack of all trades is a master of none.

The Law Society has at long last realised that accident claims can mean big money to the injured, and that you need specialist solicitors to make sure people get what is due to them.

Only personal injury solicitors on a selected panel who have been vetted by Law Society assessors can participate in Accident Line.

The Law Society reckons that the new scheme will start with about 1,500 members. You will be able to find an Accident Line solicitor by ringing a freephone number.

The name of a solicitor in your area will be given over the telephone. Leaflets explaining the new service will be available shortly.

Meanwhile, if you need advice now on an accident claim, Alas continues until the end of June. You telephone an answering machine and are then sent a list of names of solicitors in the scheme in your area. You make the choice of whom you want to see.

Before you make an appointment you can do your own vetting - ask the solicitor if he or she is a member of the personal injury panel or whether they have applied (there is a backlog of pending applications).

If the solicitor sounds blank or fobs you off with a lame excuse, you might want to think twice about whether they know one end of an accident claim from another.

Alas, tel 071-242 2430.

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