Questions to ask your solicitor
No solicitor who is prepared to act for you or your family should object to answering questions fully and honestly.
The following questions are blunt, but you should not be afraid to ask them. Take a written list of questions when you see a solicitor for an initial interview, and make a note of the answers given. You may want to ask the person accompanying you to ask the questions. If a solicitor objects to the questions or to your note making, you should ask yourself why.
Q How long have you undertaken brain injury work and how many cases are you handling at the moment?
A. The answer will give you a good idea of the individual's experience, and their familiarity with brain injury work, i.e. whether or not they deal with such cases on a regular basis.
Q What proportion of your present workload is brain injury? What does the balance of your workload comprise of?
A. The answer to this question will tell you whether or not the solicitor you are instructing is a specialist in brain injury and is capable of handling a serious injury claim.
Q Will you be dealing with my case personally?
A. You may choose a specialist solicitor who is experienced in dealing with brain injury work. If, however, that solicitor is not going to handle your case personally, it is possible that your case will be passed on to a more junior solicitor who may not necessarily be a specialist. You must, therefore, establish from the outset that the solicitor you are instructing will deal with your case personally and will be available for you when needed.
It is not unusual for solicitors to delegate or teamwork, but the solicitor instructed by you must have the time to properly assess your case and be involved in all the important steps.
Q Do you belong to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)? Do you belong to the Law Society's Personal Injury Panel?
A. Membership of Professional Bodies is an indication of special interest, and also that there are reputable organisations to contact in the rare case of a complaint being necessary.
Q When will you be able to apply for an interim payment?
A. Compensation claims, especially potentially large or complex claims, may take some time to conclude. In the meantime you will need to pay for rehabilitation, aids or adaptations or additional family expenses. Your solicitor should be aware of these likely needs and know the system for getting a result. Your solicitor should be able to advise you whether yours is a case in which an early interim payment was likely and if not why not.
Q What are the options for funding the case? (e.g. "no win, no fee"; legal expenses insurance; legal aid)
A. You must feel confident you understand the fee structures and the potential risks involved. This will help you make a decision on the right choice of legal representative for you.
Q Are you prepared to visit us at home if necessary?
A. There may be difficulties travelling to the solicitor's office. Also, visiting a solicitor can be an intimidating experience at the best of times. The individual with brain injury may feel more at ease in their own surroundings.
Q Can we phone you if we have any problems?
A. Yes! You should also have a contact to whom you can speak in your solicitor's absence - even solicitors fall ill and have holidays but you should feel confident that in these circumstances, there is someone in the legal team who can take on your enquiries and address your concerns.
Q Will you keep in regular contact with us, and how will this be done?
A. Your solicitor should be prepared to keep in contact on a regular basis. Most of the misunderstandings between clients and their solicitors arise from poor communication.
Q Do you have links with your local Headway groups?
A. A solicitor with links to Headway will not only be an ideal source of information about local support, but will also have opportunities to hear news from the wider world of brain injury research, support and development.
Q Do you have experience working with brain injury professionals?
A. The term "brain injury professionals" covers a a wide range of different expertise from benefits experience to neuro-psychology. You should be able to have confidence in your solicitor's knowledge of the kinds of professionals who might be consulted about the support necessary for you or your family members.
Q On average, what settlements do you achieve for your clients and what investment advice do you give?
A. Once your compensation award has been finalised you may need advice on how to financially manage large sums of money. If your solicitor regularly deals with large claims, the better knowledge and access to appropriate financial guidance he or she will have.
Q Would you be happy for us to take up a reference in relation to your ability to handle my claim?
A. A specialist solicitor will have satisfied clients and family members and will be known to professionals specialising in brain injury work. If you would feel more comfortable with speaking to someone about the solicitor you have instructed you must not hesitate to ask this question.
Remember! You are free to seek an initial interview with more than one firm. Visit two at least. Gaining some knowledge about the solicitors and their different ways of working is an important step to making a choice of legal representative that suits you.
If, during the course of your claim, you realise you are unhappy with the choice you have made, you have the right to change your solicitor. However, before doing so you may like to discuss this with someone else, for example Headway, your case manager or some other independent person.
Q If my case is funded by way of a “no win no fee” agreement, will you charge a success fee? If so, how much will the success fee be and how is it calculated?
A. A solicitor can charge a success fee to reflect the financial risk in taking your case on a “no win no fee” basis. The success fee only arises if your case is successful however it will be deducted from your compensation. It is important that you ask the solicitor whether a success fee will be charged, and if so, the amount. The success fee will be a percentage of your compensation (capped at 25% of compensation for your injuries and past losses).
Q Will there be any other cost deductions from my compensation?
A. You should ask your solicitor to clarify whether there might be additional deductions, such as for any shortfall in the recovery of their basic charges or for After The Event insurance.