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Involved in a personal injury case? Be wary of your solicitor trying to amend the terms of your "No win, no fee" agreement
Following a recent decision by the Court of Appeal, your solicitor may try to clarify or even amend the terms of your "no win, no fee" agreement. They have been urged to do so by a costs expert who regularly acts for solicitors in an article in today's Law Society Gazette.
The reason for this is that in Herbert -v- HH Law Limited the Court of Appeal found that the practice (which has been largely standard amongst personal injury solicitors since 2013) of applying a 100% success fee in all personal injury cases, regardless of how difficult they were, was wrong and that unless the solicitor explained that the 100% was simply "standard practice", then it should have been calculated in a way that reflects the risk of not winning the case.
In most road traffic accident cases the appropriate success fee based on risk will be 15% rather then 100%
This is important because in most cases it is the success fee that is deducted from your damages at the end of the case and, clearly, with a success fee of 100%, substantially more gets deducted. In most cases it is likely to make a difference to you of at least £500. In some cases the difference could be considerably more.
If your solicitor asks to clarify or amend the terms of your agreement they are bound, we think, by their professional obligations to explain the financial consequences to you.
You should be given the following options -
1. Continuing with the original terms (which will mean that a lower amount will be deducted from your damages)
2. Accepting the clarification or amendment (which will mean that a higher amount will be deducted from your damages)
If the options are presented in any other way, or if your solicitors say that this is necessary for any reason other than them wanting to get paid more from your case, then you can probably conclude that your solicitors are not being entirely honest with you.
Do not be pressured into accepting the new terms. You are not obliged to accept them and, if your solicitors are not prepared to continue the case on the original terms, they would need to terminate the "no win, no fee" agreement without charging you anything at all. You would then be in a position to go elsewhere (with more reasonable charging) or even conclude the case by yourself.