This question is perhaps often asked by those dealing with a legal issue such as a divorce or making a Will. There is obviously a cost to seeking legal advice and representation and this cost makes those without any legal experience question whether they can proceed themselves, without any legal advice, in order to save cost.
In my view, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a solicitor when any legal situation arises to ensure that you deal with it correctly and protect your own position from a legal perspective. There are many common misconceptions about the laws in this country on certain topics (such as the popular belief that a ‘common-law marriage’ exists) and the danger of representing yourself is that you may mistakenly assume that one of these misconceptions is correct.
In the arena of personal injury claims, it is essential to seek legal advice to ensure that your claim is not under-settled by the opposing insurer. Many insurers routinely attempt to settle personal injury claims before the injured person has had the chance to seek legal advice, in order to ensure that they pay a lower amount of compensation than would be paid if the claim were dealt with by those qualified to advise on appropriate valuations of personal injury claims. We also see numerous cases where the injured person has been corresponding with the insurer directly with regards to liability for an accident and this has been firmly disputed by the insurer. However, when we become involved and prepare a detailed and robust response to their denial of liability, setting out the legal basis for the claim, they then go on to admit responsibility for the accident. It is simply a case of insurers seeking to take advantage of those without legal knowledge or representation.
An injured person should ideally involve a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity to allow the solicitor sufficient time to investigate the claim before the three year limitation period expires. If they approach a solicitor two years down the line, it can be very difficult for the solicitor to carry out the necessary liability investigations and obtain all of the necessary medical evidence in support of the claim before it becomes necessary to issue court proceedings. This can prejudice the injured person’s position as there may not be enough time to obtain the necessary evidence and make a proper assessment of the case before bringing it to court.
The common concern about the potential cost of seeking legal advice ought not to trouble injured people when considering whether to instruct a solicitor. This is because most personal injury claims with reasonable prospects of success can be funded by way of a “no win no fee” agreement (whereby the injured person does not pay anything if the case is lost, but pays a success fee of up to 25% of their compensation if the case is successful) or by way of legal expense insurance on a home or car insurance policy. Injured people do not, therefore, need to worry about paying anything upfront or receiving a large and unexpected bill at the end of their case.
Unfortunately, if the conservative government (heavily influenced by the insurance industry) get their way next year, the right to seek legal advice following an accident or injury is likely to be removed for the majority of road traffic accident victims. The government is seeking to bring all road traffic accident claims involving an injury worth less than £5,000.00 (which could include minor fractures and soft tissue injuries lasting two years or maybe more) into the small claims process, which means they will be expected to be dealt with by injured people themselves without any input from legal professionals. Legal costs will no longer be recoverable from the opposing insurers. Despite this, there will remain a requirement for injured people to obtain medical reports detailing their injury and prognosis, which many may not have the means to arrange.
We, as an industry, are lobbying the government in an attempt to protect the rights of injured people and continue allowing them access to justice. However, the reality is that, if you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a road traffic accident from 2019 onwards, you may be on your own when it comes to seeking compensation for your injury. You should, however, still seek advice from a solicitor to check whether your injury is sufficiently serious to escape the small claims process.
In the meantime, we encourage you to seek advice at the earliest possible opportunity following an accident in order to ensure that you receive the right amount of compensation, as well as any necessarily rehabilitative treatment.
Please call us on 0175 321 6399 if you would like to speak to one of our personal injury specialists with regards to a potential compensation claim.