Going to court is never an enjoyable experience. It’s nerve-wracking, unfamiliar and it can also be quite intimidating. However, regardless of these reasons, the most common reason for not taking a case to court is the costs that are involved.
Generally, even if people have been in an accident that’s not their fault they’ll still try their best to avoid court proceedings because of the costs that will inevitably build up during the legal process. Although legal bills may seem like a huge obstacle to overcome there are actually many ways to make the costs more manageable and, if you win your case, in many situations your costs will be paid for you.
There are three main ways to fund a compensation claim:
Private fee paying
If you agree to pay the legal fees in this way then you will be responsible for all of the fees that are built up on your side. The majority of solicitors have hourly charges and will put any time that they’ve spent on your case down on your file. You should be aware that there could be a number of people working on your case including partners, solicitors, trainee solicitors and paralegals, and all of these people will have hourly rates that they will be putting against your file.
In addition to the solicitors’ standard hourly fees there will also be disbursements to be paid for. These include medical reports, police reports, witness testimonies and advice on the sum of compensation you should expect to receive if your case is successful.
Generally, most solicitors won’t let your bill build up to an unmanageable amount and they will ask you to pay instalments as you go along. The majority will also let you know how your bill is looking and will inform you each time you pass a £500 or £1,000 marker.
If your claim is successful then your solicitor should get the majority of their costs paid by the other party and you will receive the balance of the compensation.
However, if you lose your case or pull out before the trial, then not only will you be expected to pay your own legal costs, you’ll also have to pay the other party’s costs too.
Conditional fee arrangement (no win, no fee)
No win, no fee arrangements were not permitted in the UK until a few years ago, despite the fact they’ve been available in the United States for many years. However, since the loss of Legal Aid, no win, no fee cases are encouraged as they’re the only way to ensure justice for people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal proceedings.
If you’re hoping for a no win, no fee arrangement then you should ask your solicitor about this early on in the proceedings. A lot of solicitors will offer this service; some will only approve it if you ask. However, there are some solicitors who won’t work in this way at all in which case you’ll have to decide whether to approach another solicitor or to pay the fees in another way.
If you ask your solicitor about a no win, no fee arrangement they’ll first look further into your case to assess the likelihood of success in court. If they believe you can win the case then they may offer you a conditional fee arrangement.
Under such an agreement, you’ll be responsible for your solicitor’s fees should you win the case. The fee will be broken into two parts, there’s the basic fee – that the solicitor charges for the work that’s been put into your case – and a success fee, which is an added percentage of the basic fee (this will be agreed upon in advance).
All of these details will be entered into an agreement that your solicitor will explain to you. After everything has been explained it’ll be up to you whether you agree to the solicitor’s proposal.
Before signing the agreement, you should be aware that you will be expected to pay for certain things as the proceedings progress, including police report fees, medical report fees and court fees. You’ll also have to pay an insurance payment to cover yours and your opponent’s costs should you lose.
After paying these fees, should you lose the case in court, you won’t be expected to pay anything as your insurance policy will cover all legal costs – including your opponent’s costs – relating to the claim.
Legal expenses insurance
It’s worth checking all of your insurance policies to make sure your costs aren’t covered by one of them. A lot of car insurance policies nowadays cover legal expenses and many household policies are the same. You could also have taken out an individual policy to cover certain circumstances – this is likely if you work in an industry where certain accidents are much more likely than usual occur. If legal cover is included as part of your policy then you should be able to choose your own solicitor and the majority, if not all, of your legal expenses will be paid.