The phrase personal injury claim is a rather taboo subject in today's society. Everyone has had a phonecall from an unknown number asking, "Have you had an accident in the last three years?" which often gets met with frustration on the part of the thousands of people interrupted by these nuisance phone calls every day.
But for the people who have genuinely been involved in a non-fault accident, whether that may be a Road Traffic Accident, an Accident at Work or an accident involving claims against the local authority, you are entitled to be represented by a law firm that can seek compensation from the at fault party.
From this point on, clients are then explained how they will be looked after and more importantly how they will be charged for this work. Many Solicitors up and down the country operate Conditional Fee Agreements, more commonly known as "No Win, No Fee Agreements". This type of model operates by the law firm charging you on an hourly rate with an additional "success fee", reflecting a percentage uplift of the hourly rates incurred.
These success fees are traditionally set with reference to the risk in the case. For example, you would expect to be charged a low success fee (typically 15-20%) for a Road Traffic Accident case, on the other hand a very complex, high value holiday sickness claim might incur a success fee of up to 100%.
Most firms "cap" the amount you are charged at 25% of your damages, so you never receive less than 75%. However, some firms operate caps at more (sometimes 35%-40% of your damages).
However, many firms make the mistake of telling clients from the off that instead of charging them an hourly rate with a success fee, they don't need to worry as they will simply be charged "25% of damages".
This is a common misconception in the legal industry. Law firms acting under a Conditional FeeAgreement are NOT entitled to simply deduct 25% of your compensation, and there is case law to prove it.
If you have recently settled your case and received your damages which involved a deduction from your Solicitor, you may have also received a bill for their charges.
Your Solicitor may well be delivering their "Statute Bill" to you, and if that is the case then it is important that you understand your rights as there are very strict timescales that apply if you want to dispute their charges. The most important and simple thing to explain is that you have an automatic entitlement to have your Solicitor's fees assessed, so long as that challenge is brought before the Court within a month of you receiving the bill. If you are outside this then there are circumstances in which you can still have an assessment, but you should seek legal advice on your rights before you do this.
If you have received a statute bill and are curious to what it contains and how it may affect you, we have written five things to look out for which may help you in choosing whether to accept their fees, or whether to challenge them.
- Hourly Rates – Does your bill tell you the hourly rate of the person that worked on your claim? For junior paralegals typical hourly rates accepted by the Court are around £120.00 per hour plus VAT. For heavily experienced Solicitors who handle complex cases it can be up to £400.00 per hour plus VAT or higher. We have experienced plenty of personal injury firms trying to charge out junior paralegals, even in straightforward cases, at a fixed rate of £350.00 per hour plus VAT.
- Recovered Legal Costs – A statute bill in Personal Injury cases must inform you of the legal costs that were recovered from your opponent in the case. For example, simple Road Traffic Accident cases of modest value are subject to "Fixed Recoverable Costs" of £500.00 plus VAT where the claim settles at an early stage in the "portal". If your Solicitor did not explain to you that despite charging you an hourly rate of, for example, £250.00 per hour plus VAT, they would only recover £500 plus VAT from the other side, leaving you responsible for the balance, we would love to hear from you as in our experience, you may be entitled to pursue a successful Solicitors Act application for a refund.
- How was the bill delivered to you? Was it delivered by post, or by email? Many firms typically attempt to deliver a statute bill (and in turn start the one-month timetable for automatic assessment) by sending bills by email. Many firms will tell you that the bill is for "information purposes only", however that is NOT correct. You are entitled to trigger something that is your legal right following receiving a Solicitors Bill and, if you do not, then your right to any refund may be lost.
- Does your bill include a charge for a "success fee" – if so, what percentage was the success fee set at? If your success fee was 100% for a simple Road Traffic Accident, then this has been the tell-tale of an overcharge for many Clients that we have represented and successfully obtained a refund for. Your Solicitor may well have confused things by referring to it as a "25% success fee" which will equal the exact amount deducted from your damages. If that is the case you should clarify with your Solicitor the actual success fee applied, or seek the advice of legal experts if you are unsure.
- Not received a statute bill? This can be good and bad news for you.
- The bad news is that you have not received a document which is your legal right to receive. If you have not received one you can simply ask for your statute bill. If your Solicitor refuses to give you a bill then there is a remedy to this by seeking an Order from the Court that requires them to deliver a bill to you. We recommend that you take advice from an expert before proceedings with such an application
- The good news is that, until your solicitors deliver their "statute bill" you cannot be out of time to challenge their fees. If you are looking to review your solicitors' charges and make sure you were not overcharged then you can contact your Solicitor to get a bill, or you can even instruct us to do this for you.
Checkmylegalfees.com are here to help in this regard and boast an impressive record of obtaining refunds for Client's who have been involved in personal injury cases.
To instruct us to review your Solicitors fees for you, please go to claim.checkmylegalfees.co.uk now.
Or just go to our claims page to start your claim.