Can I switch Medical Negligence solicitors halfway through my case?
Can I switch Medical Negligence solicitors halfway through my case?
If you are making a claim for compensation after having suffered from Medical Negligence, you will be relying heavily on the solicitor you have instructed. Not only will this person be your source of expert advice, but they also make all the necessary arrangements and carry out negotiations with other parties.
This means that you rely heavily on your solicitor’s expertise, professionalism and communication skills. But what if you are dissatisfied with their service? Are you obliged to stay with an unsatisfactory solicitor, or can you switch halfway through your case?
The answer is yes- you can switch, but it is important to understand why you are dissatisfied and what to look for in a solicitor.
What should I look for in a solicitor?
When you are looking for a solicitor to help you with your Medical Negligence case, whether from the start or when switching, it is vital that you do not simply to pick the first convenient solicitor you look at. This is because there are a number of things to bear in mind:
- Look for a specialist Medical Negligence solicitor from a firm that has a dedicated Medical Negligence team. Avoid solicitors who simply include Medical Negligence in a long list of areas they cover.
- Consider a firm who are members of the Law Society and feature in the Chambers & Partners UK Guide.
- Only choose a solicitor who is willing to have face-to-face discussions about the specifics of your claim.
- Some Medical Negligence solicitors are willing to offer their services on a no win, no fee basis.
- The type of funding arrangement you have with your solicitor can impact significantly upon the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries. It is very important that you fully understand the arrangement you are entering into from the outset of your claim. It is also important that you ask your solicitor to explain what deductions will be made from your compensation and ensure you fully understand the agreement they will ask you to sign. For example, many solicitors charge a success fee and this is usually deducted from your compensation (usually around 25%), so it is in your interests to find a solicitor who does not deduct this from your compensation.
- Make sure they are going to include all of your needs in the claim, especially rehabilitation costs. These may include care, equipment or appropriate accommodation.
- Make sure they are going to push for an interim payment, if required, if the other side admits liability.
Why might I wish to switch solicitors?
Due to the nature of a Medical Negligence claim, the process can be lengthy and complex, and so having a solicitor you are not satisfied with can make it very frustrating and stressful.
Typical examples of what might have gone wrong include:
- You do not feel confident about the advice you receive.
- You are being passed to and fro between several solicitors in the practice.
- Your solicitor is not communicating clearly about your case.
- You are finding difficulty in contacting your solicitor.
- Your case does not seem to be progressing quickly enough.
- Your solicitor seems to be putting you under pressure to accept less compensation than you are entitled to.
It is possible that some of these issues, such as the speed of progress, may be due to lack of understanding about the situation, though this would suggest shortcomings in communication. It would certainly be appropriate to discuss the issue with your current solicitor, but if you are still dissatisfied with the answers, it may be time to look for an alternative.
What is the position if I have legal expenses insurance?
If you have legal expenses insurance, the chances are that your insurer will have referred you to a specific firm of solicitors. While this may well be a good firm, however, that is not the main basis of the referral. The insurer will have an arrangement with them that is mutually beneficial, but not necessarily the best option for you.
However, you are under no obligation to use the recommended solicitor in the first place, or to stay with them if you become dissatisfied later. You may be told that you will lose your legal expenses cover if you switch from the recommended solicitor, but this is not true. The law is clear that a contract for legal expenses insurance cover may not restrict the choice of solicitor, as long as the chosen solicitor is qualified to practice in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Will my original solicitor charge me if I switch?
Obviously, your original solicitor can legitimately expect to be paid for the work they have already done. However, unless you have agreed to pay them on an ongoing basis, which is rare in such cases, they are unlikely to present you with a bill straight away.
If they have originally taken the case on the usual no win, no fee basis (also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement), the normal approach is to request a “lien”. This is a legally binding agreement on the part of your new solicitor to seek full legal costs for the original solicitor as well as for themselves.
How do I switch to a new Medical Negligence solicitor?
The process of switching is fairly straightforward. First of all, you need to consider carefully whether you have good reason to switch, and whether it is likely to delay your case. However, any such delay may be more than offset against the problems you are having with your original solicitor.
You will then need to research alternatives carefully. Investigate each solicitor you consider for the points made above, and discuss both the process of switching, what they can offer you that is better than the current service, and also any implications the switch might have. If possible, take the agreement you signed with your original solicitor to the meeting and determine whether you have committed to any immediate payment on switching.
If you make the decision to switch to a new solicitor, you will not have to deal with the transfer. You will sign a Form of Authority, which your new solicitor will send to the old one, requesting transfer of all documents relevant to the case.
Your previous solicitor is not to contact you at all during this process. If they do so, you are under no obligation to speak to them, but you can refer them to your new solicitor instead. Any undue pressure may be referred to the legal Ombudsman.
Once transfer of the documents has been made, your claim can proceed — hopefully as quickly, efficiently and professionally as it should have in the first place.
Do you need to switch Medical Negligence solicitors?
If you are unhappy with the way your solicitor is handling your Medical Negligence claim, especially if you feel you have been pressured into instructing that solicitor, the best option may be to switch. You have a perfect right to do so, but it is best to fully discuss your situation before making the decision.
At Osborne Morris & Morgan, we work on a no-win, no-fee basis and we do not deduct the shortfall in costs from the compensation. This can mean a difference of thousands of pounds for you – money that is rightfully yours.
Our policy on success fees and costs recovery has recently drawn comment from Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), a national charity for patient safety and justice:
“We were also very interested to note that you do not deduct a success fee or shortfall from damages. That has become increasingly unusual and we appreciate that it may in the future change but it is a real positive in terms of the client focus of OMM.”
Speak to our award-winning Medical Negligence team today on 01525 378177 or contact us via online.