Friday, 30 January 2015

Stewarts Law: helping spinal cord injury clients where they have been under-compensated

Pursuing a claim for compensation following a spinal cord injury can make a huge difference to an injured person’s quality of life. Bringing a claim will not turn back the clock but it can provide funds for care, accommodation, transport, medical treatment, therapies, holidays and compensate for lost earnings, thereby ensuring that the injured person has the best possible quality of life in the future.

As the SIA itself recommends, anyone with a spinal cord injury should ensure they instruct a law firm which has particular expertise in and experience of acting for clients with spinal cord injury. The specialist spinal cord injury solicitor will understand the issues facing their clients, will know the best experts to instruct and ensure that the very best barristers are involved in the case. The law firm should ensure that it fully appreciates every aspect of their client’s life: for example, at Stewarts Law we employ Independent Living Advisors, who are themselves wheelchair users, to assist clients and their families with the practical difficulties they may face.

Unfortunately, we are often approached by people with spinal cord injury who feel let down by the solicitors who conducted their case. If their claim is still ongoing, it is possible for us to take over conduct of their case and get it back on track. However, this is not possible for people whose claims have already settled.

In those circumstances, it is important to consider whether or not the claim was under-settled. If a claim has been under-settled, it may well mean that there will be insufficient funds to ensure that the injured person has the necessary funds to pay for care, accommodation, transport etc for the rest of their lives: the funds may well run out far too early.

We have seen a growing number of cases where the client is dissatisfied with the solicitors who have handled their cases. This may be because the solicitor who ran the personal injury case either lost the case, under-settled the case or advised the client he had no case (when he did have one).

If it appears that a claim has been under-settled, it is possible for the injured person to bring a claim against their previous solicitors. This is called bringing a professional negligence claim. In order to succeed in such a claim, the injured person needs to be able to prove that, on the balance of probabilities, the solicitors who conducted their personal injury claim were negligent and that, had they not been negligent, the injured person would have received more by way of compensation. All solicitors have professional indemnity insurance: if a successful claim is established, the solicitors’ insurer will have to pay out.

Where a client wishes to pursue a professional negligence claim against their former solicitors, cost-effective settlements can be achieved by effective use of the Professional Negligence Pre Action Protocol. Additionally, we also have considerable expertise in the use of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, often used as a tool for our clients’ advantage in such cases. If a settlement cannot be achieved by negotiation, we can pursue a claim against the solicitor on a no-win, no-fee basis so that the injured person does not have to put any of their compensation at risk.

It is important to ensure that trusted advisors provide the correct legal guidance. If they fail to provide the correct advice, the injured person should not be the one to lose out. That is the reason professional indemnity insurance exists – to protect those who rely on the advice of an expert.

Read more about Daniel Herman, Partner at Stewarts Law who heads up the Personal Injury department in Leeds here.

We are proud of our work with SIA, more details of which appear here

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