Changing Solicitor – FAQ
If you have suffered serious injury due to someone’s fault, such as a motorist, employer or negligent doctor, it may be possible to claim monetary compensation from their insurers. Such an award can be used to fund private rehabilitation programmes, therapies, adapted transport and accommodation, care, case management and all other expenses resulting from the injury, including loss of earnings.
There are therefore potentially enormous advantages in bringing a claim, but the outcome may depend on the skill and experience of the solicitors instructed. At Anthony Gold, we are often asked to take over cases from clients whose claims have been mishandled by other solicitors.
There are many myths around the transferring of files to new solicitors, and clients are often misled about how they can go about changing their solicitor. To make things clearer, we have put together some of the most common questions we are asked by clients who contact us about switching solicitors:
1. I have already signed an agreement with a firm of solicitors but would like to change, am I able to do this?
A: Yes. We have helped many clients transfer their file to us when they have not been happy with their solicitor. Just because you have signed an agreement with them, that does not prevent you from changing solicitors.
2. Am I able to speak with another solicitor on a no obligation basis without my current solicitor being told?
A: Absolutely. We offer a free no obligation consultation to all of our prospective clients. You do not need to tell your existing solicitor prior to speaking with us. Only if you decide you wish to change solicitors would they need to be informed.
3. If I transfer my case to another firm, will I have to start my claim from scratch?
A: No. Your newly appointed solicitor should be able to obtain the file from your existing solicitors and can continue from where that firm left off.
4. If my claim has been mishandled by my current solicitor, can previous errors be rectified by my newly appointed solicitor?
A: If the previous firm have made mistakes through inexperience which mean that you are less likely to win your claim or may receive less compensation, then the new solicitors will take steps to correct this if possible. Generally, the earlier the case is transferred, the easier it is for any such errors to be rectified.
5. My insurers referred me to my existing solicitor, I have said I am not happy with the service being provided but they have said I must continue with them – is this right?
A: If your case is funded by legal expenses insurance, you will probably have been referred to solicitors on the insurers’ “panel”. This is a firm or firms with whom the insurers have commercial arrangements which mean that it is financially advantageous for the insurers if the case is handled by those solicitors.
Your insurers may well tell you that you have to use their panel solicitors or you will lose cover under the policy. This is not correct. There is European legislation which means that you have the right to choose your own solicitors once Court proceedings begin and the insurers cannot refuse to continue to cover you if you do so. Moreover, the Financial Services Ombudsman has made it clear that in complex high value cases, legal expenses insurers should allow their customers a choice of solicitor from the outset.
6. Will I be responsible for my current solicitor’s fees if I decide to transfer my claim to another firm?
A: Many injury claims are funded by conditional fee agreements, also known as “no win, no fee”. These agreements allow clients to change solicitors during the course of the case. However, the agreements normally provide that if a client wishes to change solicitors, the existing solicitor has the option of asking the client to pay for the work done to date and/or for expenses incurred (known as “disbursements”), before the file is released to the new firm.
Again, this is not a cause for concern. Firstly, your existing solicitors may not choose to exercise this option (and there are usually financial disadvantages for them in doing so). Secondly, it may be that your new solicitors are willing to pay the costs and/or the disbursements on your behalf.
7. My injury claim is funded by legal aid. Can I still change solicitors?
A: Yes. Since 2000, legal aid has only been available for clinical negligence cases and not for claims for other types of injury caused by negligence or breach of statutory duty. Since 2013, legal aid for clinical negligence cases has been limited to cases relating to brain injuries sustained during or near to the time of birth. However, many legally aided clinical negligence cases started before 2013 are still ongoing. If you have such a case, it is straightforward to transfer the benefit of the legal aid to another firm, provided that the new firm has the relevant legal aid clinical negligence franchise.
8. How do get my case file transferred to my new solicitor, do I have to do this myself?
A: No. Your new solicitors will handle the negotiations with the old firm and the paperwork on your behalf. You simply need to make the decision to change.
If you are unhappy with your current solicitor, or have concerns about their expertise in handling your case, you should not assume that you have to remain with that firm. Changing solicitors may be much easier than you think.