If you need to make a claim after an accident, your insurer may put forward a panel firm solicitor to handle the proceedings. Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Injury lawyer Catherine Hyde outlines the options available and explains that you don’t have to use the solicitor your insurer appoints.
Being involved in a road traffic accident or any other accident can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially if you are injured. If your injuries were sustained through the fault of another person or company, you have three years from the date of the accident to make a personal injury claim but acting sooner is always better.
Insurance companies usually have a panel firm that they recommend to their clients for pursuing a claim. In some cases, insurers might put pressure on their client to use the firm they have put forward. Many people are not aware that they do not have to use the solicitor their insurer appoints. While these firms will charge the insurer a lower fee for their services, they might not be the best option for you.
Under the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations Act 1990 you can choose the solicitor you want to undertake your claim, rather than being forced to use one appointed by your insurer. This means, for example that you can instruct someone you have worked with in the past or that has been recommended to you by a friend or family.
Alternatively, you can use the law firm appointed by your insurer. However, I would advise you to do some research on the firm before making any decisions.
It is important to bear in mind that an insurer-appointed solicitor is unlikely to be local to you and you will probably not meet them in person. Everything will be done by post or email and you will not receive the personal service you would get with a local firm. Dealing with the aftermath of an accident is likely to mean having to talk about difficult issues. It is not always easy to talk as openly over the phone or email, so consider whether you would feel more comfortable having these conversations with someone in person.
If you do decide to appoint your own law firm, you should make sure they have experience of dealing with your type of claim. A lawyer without specialist personal injury claim experience could miss important leads, which could result in you not receiving damages you are entitled to. If they have the right expertise, they should be able to advise you on whether or not the claim is worth pursuing in the first place. An experienced lawyer will also have the confidence to argue your case and won’t back down easily in settlement negotiations.
It is important to check who your insurer has appointed before you agree to work with them. Looking at online reviews will help you decide whether it’s worth instructing a different firm or agreeing to work with the one that your insurer has put forward. Reviews will help you determine how successful they are likely to be at settling your claim with a positive outcome and you will be able to see how much experience they have with personal injury claims.
At Coodes we receive a lot of calls from clients who want us to act for them because they do not feel that the solicitor nominated by their insurers is actively progressing the claim. They often tell us that they are having problems getting hold of the lawyer acting for them and we sometimes hear that the firm has tried to settle the claim for a lower value than the client had hoped for.
If you start a claim with your insurance company’s appointed solicitor under a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win no fee), but are unhappy with the service you receive, then you may not be able to change firms until you have personally paid the costs for the work already undertaken by your existing solicitors.
When you instruct a solicitor after an accident, it is likely that your focus will be on pursuing your personal injury claim. However, it is well worth considering the bigger picture. For example, you may also need advice on setting up a Personal Injury Trust Fund to protect your state benefits, following your accident. Or perhaps, if your circumstances have significantly changed as a result of the accident, you may need to update your Will. One of the benefits of instructing your own solicitor is that you can choose a law firm with a wide range of expertise. If you choose Coodes, we will not simply guide you through your Personal Injury claim. We will help you consider what you might need to put in place to support you in the longer term.
It is important to do your research before appointing anyone to handle your personal injury claim. Yes, you need to move quickly when pursuing a claim, but taking a bit of time to ensure you have confidence in your lawyer gives you the best chance of getting the result you deserve.