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Can I change my injury or medical negligence solicitor?

How to change solicitor during a compensation claim

The success of your serious injury or medical negligence claim can be dependent on your choice of solicitor and you may not realise you are unhappy with the service you are receiving until halfway through a case. If you are unhappy with your current solicitor, you are perfectly within your rights to seek an alternative. However, many people feel daunted by the idea of changing solicitor and do not know how  the process works.

Reasons for changing solicitor

There are many reasons why it might be appropriate to consider changing solicitor. These include:

  • Having to deal with many different case handlers rather than a dedicated contact.
  • Concern about the quality of the advice you are receiving.
  • Disappointment at the lack of contact from your solicitor.
  • Your solicitor does not keep you informed or explain matters in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Unhappiness with the speed that your case is progressing at.
  • Feeling pressured to accept compensation that you feel is less than you are entitled to.

Three steps to changing solicitor

  1. Make the decision to change solicitor. Changing your solicitor is not always straightforward but if your claim is complex and of potentially high value, a change may be needed to achieve the best possible outcome for you. For a simple and lower value claim, changing solicitor is likely to be more difficult and may not be worthwhile
  2. Choose a new solicitor. Make contact and speak to your new proposed solicitor and arrange to meet with them if you can. Your new solicitor should speak and/or meet with you on a free, no obligation basis.
  3. If your new solicitor can help, they will need to agree with your existing solicitor how the legal fees you have incurred to date will be dealt with.
  4. Once agreement on legal costs is reached, your new solicitor will send you a Form of Authority to complete and sign. This simple document will then be sent to your previous solicitor and authorises the release of your file of papers to your new solicitor.

Remember, if your claim is of relatively low value, you will find it more difficult to change solicitor and we may be unable to assist. This applies to all personal injury cases with a value below £25,000, which includes most standard whiplash cases or simple tripping accidents.

What to look for when instructing an injury solicitor

Always instruct a specialist solicitor – that act only for people who have suffered a personal injury or the consequences of medical negligence. Many firms claim to have the necessary specialism, expertise and experience. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

A specialist injury or medical negligence solicitor should:

  • Be accredited in their field by an independent body.
  • Must fully understand the incident that gave rise to the claim, as well as the impact of the injuries on those concerned.
  • Advise you on the range of options available to you for funding your claim.
  • Discuss your rehabilitation needs with a view to secure appropriate support. This can include care, aids and equipment and, in certain cases, accommodation.
  • If liability is admitted, your solicitor should discuss your entitlement to an interim payment. This could meet private treatment, care, lost earnings or living expenses.

Reasons to choose Clarke Willmott for your compensation claim

  • Recognised injury claims experts – we are accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Action v Medical Accidents and the Law Society; independent bodies who rigorously assess us to ensure we provide quality and value for money.
  • Help to fund your claim – we can help you explore your funding options including ‘no win no fee’ and legal aid.
  • Winning record – excellent track record of winning compensation claims, some with compensation worth several million pounds.
  • Partner led service – unlike many firms we never use unqualified case handlers to run your claim. Your case will be overseen by a partner who is also one our most senior lawyers to ensure you always receive the best possible service and advice.
  • Support step-by-step – we understand the claims process can be distressing, confusing and time consuming. That’s why we offer face to face meetings to talk you through the paperwork and help you complete it.

Commonly asked questions about changing solicitors

Do I have to use, or stay with my insurer’s appointed panel solicitors?

If you have legal expense insurance, you will normally be referred to solicitors on their “panel”. This is a firm with whom the insurers have commercial arrangements. It is financially advantageous for them if the case is handled by panel solicitors.

Whatever your insurers or their panel solicitors tell you, you are legally entitled to choose your own solicitor. However, the insurers may not be obliged to pay for legal representation if the solicitor is not on their panel.

Will I lose my legal expenses insurance cover if I don’t choose their solicitors?

The insurers might say that you will lose your legal expenses insurance cover if you don’t use their solicitors. This is incorrect. By law and regulation, insurers should allow you freedom to choose your solicitor but do not always abide by the rules.

For more information on this issue, please read “Legal expenses insurers try it on again” from the Law Society Gazette.

Your new solicitor will correspond with your legal expenses insurers. You won’t need to deal with them directly in this regard. Even if your insurers won’t extend cover to your solicitor, they can’t continue to refuse do so once court proceedings begin.

What happens to the costs incurred by my previous solicitor?

It’s rare for solicitors to insist on being paid before transferring your file. This adds insult to injury when you are in a difficult situation and have received poor service. In our experience solicitors are not usually unreasonable in this regard. Your original solicitors should accept what is known as a “lien” on costs. This means your new solicitors gives a binding undertaking that if your case is successful then they will seek to recover your previous solicitors’ costs at the end of your case.

However, in low value claims where compensation is likely to be below £25,000 fixed legal costs are paid by the opponent and there may be insufficient funds available to allow a new solicitor to take on your case.

It is rare but not impossible that your previous solicitors will ask for payment of costs before the end of your case. For full advice about this, have a copy of the funding agreement you have with your current solicitors to hand when you speak to your potential new solicitors. They will be able to explain how costs will be dealt with in further detail.

Can I get Legal Aid for my case if I transfer to a new firm of solicitors?

Legal Aid is not available for personal injury cases. Since 2013 Legal Aid has only been available for clinical negligence cases relating to brain injuries sustained during or near the time of birth.

If you already have Legal Aid, it can be transferred if your new solicitors have a Legal Aid contract. Clarke Willmott is one of the few firms to have such a contract and will be able to arrange the transfer of your case in most circumstances.

Contact a solicitor about your claim

If you have any questions about a new or existing claim, please get in touch. Call us on 0800 316 8892 or use our enquiry form. Our team of specialists will be happy to speak to you and discuss your case free of charge.

There is no obligation to go any further after this initial meeting.

We can meet where convenient to you – either in one of our offices, at your home or even in hospital. We represent clients nationwide from our offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

Your key contacts

Kerry Fifield

Partner and Clinical Negligence Team Manager

Kerry’s primary focus is the needs of the client and their family when pursuing a claim, taking into account that each client is an individual with specific requirements who needs to be supported in addition to the legal investigation.
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Lee Hart

Personal Injury Team Manager

Lee works closely with severely injured people and their families, leading them through the claims process and ensuring they get the best treatment, rehabilitation and care so that they can get their lives back on track as quickly as possible.
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Marguarita Tyne

Head of Personal Injury & Medical Negligence

Marguarita Tyne is a claimant clinical negligence solicitor who investigates and brings claims on behalf of patients who have been injured during the course of their medical treatment, acting mainly (but not exclusively) for brain injury claimants in high value and often complex litigation.
View profile for Marguarita Tyne >

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