It is easier than you think to change solicitors halfway through a motorbike accident compensation claim.
On an all too frequent basis we see sound motorcycle accident cases, sometimes involving catastrophic injuries, rejected out of hand. Quite often, the solicitor has not seen any witness evidence, any police report, spoken to witnesses or the police.
Even worse, in some cases, they have, and have misapplied the law, or relied on the wrong facts to make their decision.
If you are considering changing solicitors there are a number of questions that you should ask yourself.
1. Is your solicitor actually qualified?
The first question is whether you actually have a solicitor. This is not as stupid as it sounds. Profit driven insurers do not want to pay for experienced solicitors to run cases properly, so unqualified administrators push buttons on computers.
Check the Law Society database. It is illegal to call yourself a solicitor if you are not an admitted solicitor, so ask. Either a person is a solicitor or they are not. A yes or no is the only acceptable choice.
2. Did you choose the solicitor or were they appointed for you?
If a solicitor, or more likely an unqualified clerk calling from a firm of solicitors has phoned you or written to you out of the blue, then more likely than not you have a panel solicitor acting for you. These are firms who have bought cases in bulk from insurers. The arrangements change from firm to firm and insurance broker to insurance broker, but usually batches of 10 to 50 cases are sent to the panel firm and the panel firm could have as little as 24 hours to decide if they want to run your case.
Your panel solicitor may do thousands of similar claims, so can say that they do a lot of a particular type of work - whether it is whiplash claims, motorcycle claims, or car claims. The question for you is how well are they doing their job.
It is almost impossible for any solicitor to do a proper job where their client does not trust the solicitor’s judgment. Most professional solicitors do not want to keep a client who no longer trusts the quality of the legal advice he or she is receiving.
3. Is your personal injury solicitor never available to talk to you?
Does your solicitor never return your calls or responds to letters? But how often do you write or phone? If it is more than once a week, it’s too much. Your solicitor is probably waiting for a reply to his letter to the other driver’s insurer and they can take weeks to reply! However, if you have had no contact for a month that’s different and you might be right to be dissatisfied.
Also, trust your instincts. If your appointed representative (unlikely to be a solicitor) seems to be getting out of their depth or cannot answer your questions then change.
4. Has there been a breakdown in communication?
The most common reason for wanting to change solicitors is a breakdown in communication. This may be because the solicitor is too busy, does not care or you are asking questions they either do not like or know the answers to.
Part of the job of a solicitor is to manage a client's expectations and then meet those expectations. Where you are told that nothing can happen for a period of time then you must wait, but at the end of the period you should then be hearing about things happening. You have a right to change solicitors, so you need to consider what you are unhappy about.
5. Is it easy to change solicitors?
It is easier than you think to change solicitors and we frequently take over motorcycle accident claims where motorcyclists feel that their current solicitor doesn't have their best interest at heart or isn't interested in obtaining the maximum and fair level of compensation for injuries caused by a motorbike accident.
These appointed representatives are being paid a tiny fee by your legal expenses insurer, and cannot put any time, thought or effort into your case - or they just don't get what motorbiking is about. If your solicitor doesn't get it, then things are looking pretty hopeless for you.
6. Will my Legal Expenses Insurance still cover me?
You cannot be forced to use a solicitor against your will, regardless of what your legal expenses insurers tell you. The Financial Ombudsman Service is sympathetic to people who have lost faith or confidence in their solicitors, or want to choose their own solicitor after their legal expenses insurer made a bad decision about who dealt with their case.
Under the The Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 once proceedings are issued (and this is when you do need insurance) your legal expense insurers have no choice, they have to insure you, but you do not even need to go this far.
We have referred just about every conceivable policy of legal expenses insurance to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Rather than have a test case in front of the Ombudsman every single insurer has confirmed cover on acceptable terms. The legal expenses insurers talk a good fight but they don’t like to get into the ring.
We have no problem at all acting on any form of Legal Expenses Insurance, and the bike brokers know not to resist us. If the terms are unfair to you - we will advise you to challenge them, and we will deal with all of the technical issues.
7. What questions to ask when looking for a new solicitor?
- How much experience do they have of personal injury work and motorbike accidents?
- Do they specialise in personal injury cases or do they do all sorts of legal work?
- Will a qualified personal injury lawyer (solicitor or barrister) be dealing with your case?
8. Why is choosing a solicitor that also rides motorbikes important for a motorcycle accident claim?
In our area of motorcycle claims, one of the most common problems we come across are lawyers or claims handlers who have no idea of the physics and behaviour of motorcycles under braking, accelerating, or cornering. If your lawyer does not understand how your accident happened, how will they ever be able to present your case?
Frankly it's because your solicitor "gets it" - he or she knows why you cannot brake mid corner and steer, why tyres wash out under heavy braking, why damaged kit needs to be replaced and so on.
9. What is the process for changing to a new solicitor?
- Decide that you want to change solicitors
- Find the solicitor who you want to act in place of the panel solicitor
- Instruct the new solicitors to act and you sign a release form
- Your new solicitors will send the release form off to your current solicitors with a formal promise to protect the file
- A few weeks later the new firm of solicitors will receive your paper case file
All specialist solicitors are used to taking over claims and our procedure is pretty standard across the profession.
Very occasionally the old firm of solicitors resists. A swift application to the High Court deals with this in just about every case without ever having to go in front of a Judge. The one time a solicitor refused to hand over the papers to us despite the application, the Court ordered the former solicitor to pay costs of over £2,000.00 and the Judge struck out all of his costs for acting. Whilst your panel firm may be quite arrogant on the telephone as to handing over the papers a High Court summons tends to knock them off their high horse.
I definitely want to change solicitors!
If after reading the above advice you feel that you would rather change solicitors to a professional and specialist motorcycle firm, such as White Dalton Motorcycle Solicitors, then call us on 0800 783 6191 or email us to discuss your case with one of our solicitors. You will have a qualified solicitor handling your case who also rides a motorbike.