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Mark Birtles v Hadi Law Limited : £500.00 refund for client in overcharge linked with obvious “CFA Lite”

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I saw an advertisement on social media for Checkmylegalfees.com purely by chance. Once I signed up, everything moved really quickly. I had absolutely no knowledge of Hadi Law's overcharging and was pleasantly surprised how much could be recovered. It was all done for me very quickly and efficiently - I didn't need to do a thing and now I have some unexpected money to treat myself with!

Mark Birtles, 27/04/22

Checkmylegalfees.com have obtained a legal fees refund of £500.00 for a former client of Hadi Law Limited, who had £625.00 deducted from his damages representing Hadi Law's legal fees in representing him.

Mr Birtles, 44 from Alsager, was injured in a Road Traffic Accident on 29th May 2018 and suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, back, and shoulders.
He engaged Hadi Law Solicitors, based in Preston, to represent him and was provided with a set of documents to sign which contained the firms "Conditional Fee Agreement" and "Terms of Business".

The Conditional Fee Agreement, which was drafted based upon The Law Society's "model CFA", had been adapted by Hadi Law and contained wording such as:
Under "Paying us if you win"

"If you win your claim, we will on your behalf recover our basic charges, our expenses and our disbursements from your opponent…."

This implies that Mr Birtles would have all of his costs, except the success fee, recovered from his opponent's insurer.

Under "After the Event Insurance" Mr Birtles was told that arrangements were being put in place with an After the Event Insurance policy which would cost £297.00 including insurance premium tax, and would be deducted from his damages if he won the claim.

Checkmylegalfees.com understand that the cost of this insurance policy is extremely high for what was always a relatively straight forward RTA claim, and that alternative policies offered by other firms are much cheaper than this.

Under "Success Fee"

"Except in road traffic accident cases of a particular value and admitted liability where the success fee is set by the Court rules (see below)…"

The agreements did not go on to clarify what the success fee might be in this scenario, and this appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how success fees operate within personal Injury claims, as there is no "fixed" success fee at all.

Under "How we calculate our basic charges"

"Except in road traffic accident cases of a particular value and admitted liability where the basic charges are set by Court rules…"

The document then tells the client the usual hourly rates that apply to these matters, as follows:

Solicitor Grade Hourly Rate (net of VAT)

Grade A £217
Grade B £192
Grade C £161
Grade D £118

Below this table, the following paragraph was inserted:

"The above hourly rates may not apply if your claim is subject to the fixed costs detailed in the Civil Procedure Rules and the basic charges will be the amounts fixed in these rules"

This particular paragraph puts it beyond all doubt that the retainer is an "Express CFA Lite", which means that the Solicitors base charges are restricted to the amounts recovered from the opponent.

By virtue of this, any success fee uplift must also apply to those costs recovered from the opponent. For example, if the firm operates a 50% success fee and recovered £600.00 in basic charges, the success fee would be 50% of £600.00

In Hadi Law's "Client Care Letter", Mr Birtles was told:

"As you will recall we discussed the circumstances of the accident and this firm believe that you have a good case to pursue"

The firm immediately after that then said:

"Based on the accident circumstances, your success fee is set at 100% capped at 25% of your damages"

Setting a 100% success fee would imply that the case is extremely risky to Hadi Law Solicitors and perhaps the prospects of Mr Birtles claim succeeding are only just greater than 51%.

The circumstances of the accident were that Mr Birtles was slowing down prior to entering a roundabout, and was hit in the rear of his vehicle by a third party driver causing injury, which is taken from the Claims Notification Form that was submitted to Mr Birtles opponent after he signed with Hadi Law.

Plainly, a success fee of 100% was not right and didn't reflect the proper risk that applied to Mr Birtles claim. There was little risk that his claim would not succeed at an early stage.

Mr Birtles claim ultimately succeeded within the Low Value RTA Claims "Portal", he recovered £2,500.00 in damages from his opponent, whilst also recovering £500.00 plus VAT from the opponent representing legal fees.

Mr Birtles instructed Checkmylegalfees.com in February 2022 and had secured a refund of £500.00 by April 2022, representing a 80% refund on the legal fees deducted from his damages.

This refund claim demonstrates that despite Hadi Law offering an express CFA Lite, they simply decided to deduct 25% of Mr Birtles damages to represent their legal fees in this case. Such a deduction is a complete misunderstanding of how conditional fee agreements operate, especially when offering a CFA Lite.

Mr Birtles success fee refund claim is only an example of quite often ignorance applied by personal injury solicitors when it comes to consideration of what should be deducted from their clients damages. Hadi Law went out of their way to amend the model Law Society agreement to offer their client a traditionally more favourable CFA Lite to their client, however did not consider this when it came to settling Mr Birtles claim and deducting £625.00 from his damages for legal fees.

I encourage any former client of Hadi Law Solicitors to get in touch if they recognise any of the terms highlighted in this article, or, even if you were not a client of Hadi Law Solicitors and still recognise similar references to those highlighted to get in touch, as you may have been grossly overcharged

Ben Winter, Checkmylegalfees.com, 29/04/22
The Law Society Gazette reports on our ongoing tes...
Not All "No Win, No Fee" Agreements are Equal
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