Being in a road traffic collision can be traumatic, so getting the right legal support is vital. Our serious injury expert Louise Jenkins has created this guide to choosing the right solicitor and what to do if you have concerns.
How do you choose a lawyer after a serious injury?
It’s important to spend time researching to find the right lawyer. As with any profession, there are specialist areas within the law and it’s important to find a lawyer who meets your needs.
A lawyer who might assist with buying a house, with a family issue, or writing a will may not be a specialist in serious injury law. These types of cases are often complex and require specific expertise, so it’s crucial to find the right professional depending the legal advice you need.
Life-changing injuries need a specialist lawyer working within the personal injury field to ensure that all aspects of the impact of the injury are considered. Specialist lawyers can also ensure the best evidence is gathered to value the claim and protect a client’s future.
What should clients expect from their solicitor in the early stages of a personal injury claim?
Early support and guidance can make a huge difference. Alongside expert legal advice, it’s important to provide early practical support.
This can include helping to manage short-term family finances, including entitlement to state benefits, or support with understanding the injury and the effects of it. Guidance is also often needed on what to expect from NHS treatment and what are the options after being discharged from the hospital.
Serious injuries often require ongoing treatment and support at home, including rehabilitation. A case should never just be about exploring the circumstances of the accident and looking into whether there’s a viable claim.
What should a client expect in terms of communication and updates?
From the outset, clients should give their preferred method of communication, whether by a call, email, text, post or other. They should also agree with their lawyer how often they’d like to receive updates – this can be every step of the way, or at an agreed time.
Every client’s situation is different, so a tailored approach should be taken to make sure what matters most to them is always the priority.
How soon are interim payments likely to be available?
A solicitor should aim to secure interim payments as soon as possible, depending on the nature of the case. Gaining access to interim payment funding during the legal process can be vital to helping ease any financial hardship and pay for rehabilitation and medical treatment.
Prioritising recovery and restoring a client’s independence and quality of life should be at the front of the solicitor’s mind. It should also drive decisions during a claim.
A compensation claim, on the other hand, should provide for long-term financial protection and support. This can account for lost earnings, ongoing rehabilitation and care. They should be for as long as is needed, and should take into account the impact of the injuries on daily life that are directly linked to the accident.
How do you know if the solicitor is a serious injury expert?
It’s important to choose a serious injury specialist. Claims can be complex, even more so when serious injuries have been sustained which could have a life-changing impact.
When doing your research, you can find specialists through the Law Society of Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
Some charities also have approved lists of solicitors. For instance, brain injury charity Headway and medical negligence specialists AVMA both offer this.
You can also research law firms and individual lawyers in the independent legal directories, Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500 .
A specialist lawyer will know how to conduct a claim in a way that promotes recovery. They’ll instruct the right experts and medical specialists to work with the client to get the best possible rehabilitation in place.
Engaging specialists with the right expertise helps to make sure that a client reaches their potential and secures the best long-term outcome.
What if a client is unsure about their current legal representation?
It’s really important to have trust in the lawyer who’s appointed, and for a client to feel like they’re in safe hands. This comes from understanding, listening to, and responding to the individual’s needs.
The client-lawyer relationship should be honest and open throughout, including at the outset when discussing timeframes, legal costs, and compensation. If a client feels unsure at any point throughout the case, they can seek a second opinion from another industry expert.
Most solicitors offer a free initial discussion without obligation. If a client decides to continue their case with another lawyer, the newly instructed solicitor can take care of the transition so that the client doesn’t need to contact their current solicitor. With the client’s permission, this can be dealt with on their behalf, allowing them to focus on their day and what matters most to them.
What if another professional involved in a client’s rehabilitation or treatment has concerns?
If you’re a professional involved in a case with a client, it can be difficult if you have concerns about how the claim’s being handled or progressing. A client may also be unaware of what to expect, unsure when to challenge things, and lack the confidence to ask questions of their lawyer.
As a healthcare professional taking care of a client’s best interests, it’s important to understand their concerns. If there are any doubts, you should talk to your client about their option to seek a second opinion.
Here are some of the triggers and common areas of concern:
Frequent delays or periods of inactivity
Unhappy with the level of communication from the lawyer
No or very little interim payment funding for rehabilitation, care, support and equipment needs
Unsure if the advice is correct or geared towards the specific needs of the client and their injuries
The expected settlement won’t cover long-term care or rehabilitation costs
The current lawyer confirms they can no longer represent a client.
What about other legal services a client might need after an injury?
Having access to a range of other legal services can be an important part of supporting clients and their families after a serious injury. They might need for advice on family law, conveyancing, wills and trusts, public law, court of protection, employment, or financial advice including access to state benefits.
It’s a good idea to check if the prospective law firm also offers these other services. It can be more efficient if the client can be provided with everything they need in one go, whether this is legal, practical or financial support.
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