Personal injury law – probably one of the most important areas of law – has something of a tarnished reputation. Whether it’s lazy solicitors buying-in claims from ropey claims management companies, or some large ‘factory-style’ law firms heaping a staggering numbers of cases onto their unqualified staff – it all boils down to the same thing: personal injury claims being treated as meaningless numbers. The idea makes me furious: to think that so many clients experience this kind of representation, without knowing they deserve (and can receive) a higher level of legal service.

The staggering numbers

As a law firm owner I have interviewed lots of paralegals, many of whom have told me about the silly numbers of cases that they have to run at such firms. Recruitment companies also bombard me with details of their candidates who run up to 450 road traffic accident claims at a time. The most that I have heard that one paralegal was running – on their own – is 500 cases! I will write that again: one unqualified file handler with 500 claims. Shocking. The poor lawyer. The poor clients. 500 people relying upon that one lawyer to secure them the right compensation successfully. This is why much of our work at Truth Legal comes from clients switching solicitors to us.

For many personal injury clients there is nothing ‘personal’ about the service that they receive. Imagine trying to remember so many names, or even half as many. Most people couldn’t remember 150 Facebook friends, let alone trying to recall the details of 500 unique cases.

You may have experienced it first-hand – chasing your busy file handler for updates, only to be met with the refrain: “What’s your reference number?” I bet you want to shout back: “Surely you know me by now!”

Why do these poor standards exist?

Predictably, one of the main reasons is to make bigger profits. This requires a high-volume of work to be done by a relatively small number of low-paid staff. Another reason is that most clients don’t know what to expect when making a personal injury claim and, barring misfortune, they won’t need to make another in their lifetime. Therefore, the unscrupulous firm does not expect repeat business. Sad – sad but true.

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Getting the right standard of skill

Your lawyer’s case-load is only one indication of whether your personal injury claim is being dealt with to the right standards. Even if your file handler has only 5 other cases, you want to be sure that they have the skills and experience to deal with your claim correctly.

Ask your lawyer two questions:

  1. How many personal injury cases are they running?
  2. Are they a qualified solicitor or qualified Legal Executive?

You may well be shocked by the answers.

There is an irony in some firms that the less qualified someone is the more cases they are forced to run. It makes more sense for the experienced solicitors to have the most cases, but the opposite happens.

Not only is it impossible for them to give a good service to so many clients, the standard of legal advice is often poor. I knew of a case, which involved severe injuries sustained in a high-speed car accident, being run by a ‘junior paralegal’, whatever that means.

Even injuries which are generally seen as less severe, such as whiplash, can become quite complex if they don’t fully resolve as predicted by a medical expert. However, dealing with such a complicated injury case is way beyond the experience of a junior, unqualified file handler.

At Truth Legal, we have seen a number of these cases becoming pain management conditions – a severe set of symptoms which you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. If such a condition is treated as a bog-standard whiplash claim by an inexperienced file handler, then there is a high probability of the claim being under-settled. Crucially, once a personal injury claim has been settled, you cannot claim any more compensation for it at a later stage. You can always make a professional negligence claim against your legal representative if their advice was negligent or sub-standard, but this can be tricky and it is far from an ideal situation.

How can I get high-quality representation for my personal injury claim?

If you are unlucky enough to be injured in an accident, then be picky about selecting your lawyer. These are my tips:

  1. Usually reject the solicitors allocated to you by your insurers. Argue for freedom of choice, after all, you paid for the insurance.
  2. If you can meet your lawyer in person, this is best for both you and your lawyer.
  3. Ensure that your lawyer is a qualified solicitor or legal executive by checking them out on the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor website.
  4. Use your instinct. Does it ‘feel’ right?
  5. Seek recommendations from friends and family.
  6. Ask lots of questions about the types of cases that the lawyer has run before and how many they are running now.

Finally, my advice is to seize control of your case. You have no obligation to stay with any law firm who is acting for you so switch lawyers if your claim is not getting the attention it deserves.

If you would like Truth Legal to take on your case, please contact us to discuss your situation. We offer free, no-obligation consultations and will normally be able to conduct your case on a No Win No Fee basis.

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Catherine Reynolds
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