Do I really need a solicitor? Personal injury claim settled for too little

Partner Iona SmithIn this series, we explore real-life examples that our lawyers have encountered where failing to seek solicitor advice has caused clients all manner of problems. Along the way there are useful ‘takeaways’ to help you avoid making the same mistakes.

A road traffic accident can have devastating effects for both the injured party and their entire family.  It is essential that the correct amount of compensation is negotiated for them so as to put them back into the position they would have been financially, had the accident not occurred.  After a settlement figure has been accepted, an injured person cannot, except in very exceptional circumstances, revisit their compensation figure claiming it is insufficient so it is crucial that a figure is correct at the time the settlement is agreed.

In recent years insurance companies have often tried to settle cases quickly and cheaply at a low value, and accident victims who have not instructed a solicitor have often had assistance in dealing with their claim from a colleague or unqualified professional.  These helpers are termed “McKenzie Friends” by the courts. Sometimes these unqualified advisors hold themselves out to be as good as a solicitor but the courts have recently called for a ban on McKenzie Friends, since they do not have the training, experience or regulation of a qualified solicitor.  The consequences of a McKenzie Friend providing poor advice could be catastrophic as it is extremely unlikely that they will be insured to bridge the gap between the compensation achieved and the amount an experienced solicitor would have recovered, or to pay an opponent’s costs which could be ordered against the accident victim.  

Personal Injury Partner Iona Smith was recently approached by a client who had been offered a sum of money that was inadequate compensation for the injuries he had sustained.  It was evident that medical evidence had not been obtained from the right experts and with the right evidence a settlement figure of nearly 8 times the original offer was achieved.

With the increase in public awareness of accident claims insurers are keen to avoid legal fees by putting what appear to be attractive settlement offers on the table at a very early stage, often prior to medical evidence being obtained or the financial impact of the accident fully manifesting itself.

For expert advice on any accident or clinical negligence matter contact our Personal Injury Partner Iona Smith who is recognised by the Law Society Panels for both Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence.  She is also accredited by Headway the organisation for people with acquired brain injury and the Spinal Injuries Association so you can rest assured that your claim is being handled by an expert in the field.

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