Legal funding – confused, you will be!

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BL Claims Solicitors specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims, providing our clients with hands-on support, nationally.

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This is part of the Government’s wider agenda to inject more competition into legal services and to reduce the legal costs that defendants have to pay.

Legal aid will be abolished for clinical negligence claims but it is our view that there will be a scheme for a category of exceptional cases, such as cerebral palsy and other catastrophic injuries, where some public funding will still be provided.  It will be more important than ever therefore for clients to get advice from specialists in clinical negligence when setting out to bring these claims.

Conditional fee agreements (CFAs), known as “no win-no fee agreements” will be shaken up.  The recoverability from the losing party of the lawyer’s success fee in this arrangement will be abolished.  This means that the success fee element will have to be paid by the client, even though they have won their case, but subject to a 25% cap based on the damages excluding future financial losses.  The general damages part of the claim will be increased by 10% to try to make up for this, so clients are being encouraged to “shop around” to keep as much of their award as they can.  The effect could be a “race to the bottom” where inexperienced firms with cheaper legal teams say they will charge nothing to the client.  Not paying anything might look attractive but by using less experienced lawyers clients may end up losing their case entirely or getting a much poorer result even allowing for the 25% contribution to legal costs.

Contingency fees are likely to be brought in too.  This is where the lawyer’s fees are a percentage “cut” of the damages obtained, again up to a limit of 25%.  The effects could be striking.  If you have a complex very hard fought case of modest value taken to trial, then the legal team may end up being paid very substantially less under a contingency fee than they would under a CFA.  Will that funding be economic for firms to do the work?  Conversely, for a high value case under a contingency fee which settles quickly, the legal team could end up being paid an amount far in excess of the amount of work they actually did.

It is rumoured that even for cases that are given public funding, clients too who have won will have to make a 25% contribution back into public funds.  On the other hand without these contributions of up to 25% of damages, clients may not be able to bring the case at all, or will face firms trying to offer bargain basement levels of service.

Will it all be swings and roundabouts?  Will it be bumpy ride?  Will it be a minefield?  It probably will be, but in my view the basic principles of finding a good clinical negligence lawyer to bring your case remain the same.  Ask us about:  (1) Our track record in this area of work; (2) Our dedication to the clinical negligence area of law; (3) The fact that our team specialises 100% in clinical negligence work; (4) Working as a team; (5) Our in-house clinical expertise; (6) How many cases like yours we have dealt with before; (7) The quality of the barristers we use; (8) The quality of independent medical experts; (9) Our success rates at getting settlements for clients; and (10) Taking cases to trial.  We have the skill and experience to get you through the legal funding minefield and will answer your questions clearly and honestly. 

John White

Partner - Clinical Negligence team

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