Can I change solicitors for my medical negligence or personal injury claim?
Rachel Pearce, Partner and Head of Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence at Coodes Solicitors, discusses when you might change solicitors while pursuing a medical negligence or personal injury compensation claim.
If you have been injured as a result of medical negligence or an accident that was not your fault you might be entitled to compensation. That means instructing a specialist personal injury or clinical negligence lawyer to advise you and pursue your claim. What happens, however, if you want or need to change solicitors while your claim is underway?
Instructing a specialist lawyer
Changing your legal advisor part way through a claim might be the best option for you, but it can add more stress and time to the process. Making the right choice first time is clearly going to give you the best chance of success.
At Coodes, our specialist Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team often takes on cases from solicitors who simply did not have the right expertise. Medical negligence and personal injury are both niche areas of law that require a high level of experience and technical knowledge.
Coodes has a whole department dedicated to these areas of law. If you instruct a lawyer without the necessary expertise you might find your claim not progressing as it should. Even worse, you could end up not achieving the amount of compensation you are entitled to. To avoid that happening and to help ensure you make the right choice first time, here are a few things to look out for:
- What professional accreditations and memberships does your solicitor hold? Are they accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)? Are they listed as being on the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme?
- Are they recommended and known for this area of law? The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners are prestigious legal directories that rank lawyers for particular areas of expertise. You may also be able to find client reviews online.
- Can they pursue your claim on a no win, no fee basis? Can they explain how your claim would be funded and are you happy with what they have proposed?
- If you arrange an initial discussion, how did you feel afterwards? Did they put you at ease and listen to you? Did they discuss rehabilitation and recovery options? Did you feel they understood the nature of what had happened and did they explain your options and the claims process in a clear way? If not, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.
Reasons for changing your solicitor
Even if you have done all you can to instruct the right lawyer, you may need to change your advisor part way through a claim. This could be for a number of reasons:
- The firm closes down or the solicitor leaves
If the firm closes down, you will have no choice other than to take your claim elsewhere. If your dedicated solicitor leaves, your claim should be transferred to another specialist member of their team. However, you may decide to choose a different law firm altogether.
- You are unhappy with their service
If you do not feel you are getting the service you deserve then you may decide to move to a new solicitor. This could be for any number of reasons: it could be progressing slower than you feel it should, your lawyer may not be keeping you properly updated, for example.
- You lose confidence in their ability to handle your claim
We have successfully handled cases for clients whose first law firm told them they did not have a valid claim. We have also taken on cases in which mistakes have been made by previous lawyers. If at any stage of the process you feel your lawyer has not properly grasped your case or is not dealing with it in the correct way, then it might be worth getting a second opinion.
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What to consider before you change solicitors
If you want to move your clinical negligence or personal injury claim to a new law firm, there are things to consider first.
- You may not get a new solicitor for a low value claim
Changing your solicitor is not always straightforward but if your claim is complex and potentially high value, you may need to change firms to achieve the best possible outcome. You might find it more difficult to switch solicitors for a simple and lower value claim, as some firms may not feel it is worthwhile pursuing.
- The limitation period may be a barrier
Time is of the essence when making a personal injury or clinical negligence claim. That is because you generally have three years since the date of the injury, or knowledge of the injury, to make a claim. A lawyer will need sufficient time to gather evidence and submit your claim. If you are nearing the end of the limitation period it is unlikely that a lawyer will agree to take on your case.
- The transfer may involve time and costs
Depending on the nature of your claim and the amount of work your first lawyer has completed, you will need to factor in time and costs to moving solicitors. Your new solicitor may also negotiate splitting costs with your previous advisor. You will also need to allow time for files to be transferred and for your new lawyer to get up to speed on your claim.
Changing solicitor part way through a claim is never ideal and can be stressful. However, if you are unhappy with the way your claim is progressing it is well worth considering getting advice elsewhere.