People often ask if changing solicitors in a personal injury claim makes sense. To some, it may seem that you should just go ahead and change solicitors if you’re having issues with your present firm.
But, as with most things, the real answer is: it depends. Read this case study to find out how we helped Paul (name changed), an apprentice heating engineer from Merseyside, win nearly £25,000 compensation after he transferred his accident at work case to Donoghue Solicitors.
Here we explain:
- why it made sense for him to transfer his case to us,
- how we made the process of changing solicitors as easy as possible, and
- how we used our expertise to make sure Paul got the maximum compensation for his personal injury accident claim.
Paul, who was 17 at the time of his accident, was working on a building site in Preston during a cold, wet January. The site was heavily waterlogged. Wooden pallets were laid on the ground near the site office portacabin to use as a walkway. The site office had steel stairs outside it. As Paul stepped off the nearest pallet to climb the stairs he got his left foot stuck between slats in the pallet, causing him to fall awkwardly and hit his ribs on the bannister of the stairs. He twisted his back as he fell.
Paul immediately knew he had seriously hurt himself. He had difficulty breathing and felt severe pain in his ribs and back. He went straight to Preston’s Accident and Emergency department where they diagnosed bruising. Paul went home to recover. The pain got worse so, after a sleepless night, he visited his local hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department complaining of left side rib and back pain. A doctor confirmed an acute spinal muscle sprain and told Paul to take 2 weeks off work.
Paul’s suffering continued. His GP arranged an x-ray which confirmed soft tissue bruising and some pre-existing problems with his lumbar spine. Paul took strong painkillers and tried physiotherapy. He had so much trouble sleeping that he had to buy a new bed. It hurt his legs when he walked for 10 minutes, which he did with a limp. After sitting for 20 minutes he would get numbness over his left thigh. He suffered with pins and needles in his left leg.
Paul was unable to return to work for 8 months because of his on-going health issues and the physical nature of his job, which involved heavy lifting.
When he did return to work, he injured his back again as he lifted some heavy piping. Paul said he felt his legs go out from under him and shooting pains up his spine. He was unable to continue in the job as an apprentice heating engineer.
How We Helped Paul Change His Personal Injury Solicitor
Paul instructed a local personal injury solicitor to claim against his employers. His employers admitted liability but denied “causation” (questioning if the accident caused Paul’s injuries) and other losses.
Unfortunately, Paul’s solicitor ceased trading. This meant that he had to swap solicitors if he wanted to continue his claim. He researched changing personal injury solicitors and contacted Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor in Liverpool who specialises in accident at work claims, to pursue his claim.
Kevin met with Paul face-to-face to discuss his situation. He agreed to take Paul’s case and contacted Paul’s present solicitor to agree terms to transfer his case to Donoghue Solicitors. Kevin gave a formal undertaking to “preserve a lien as to costs”, which meant that Paul did not have to pay his solicitor’s fees up to that point. (Mr Donoghue assured Paul’s former solicitor that he would include his claim for costs in the final bill once Paul’s claim settled.) Because Kevin is a solicitor, and Donoghue Solicitors is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Paul’s present solicitor knew that he could rely on Kevin’s word.
Kevin also agreed to run Paul’s case by way of conditional fee (‘no win no fee’) agreement. This meant that Paul, who was now unemployed, did not have to spend any of his own money on it, or risk having to pay his legal fees in the event he was not successful.
Paul told Kevin that the accident happened a while ago. Kevin personally collected Paul’s file by hand to make sure no time was wasted.
How Changing Solicitors Helped Paul With His Accident Claim
When Kevin reviewed the case, he found a long-running, complicated matter. It involved Paul having to prove his entire claim despite the admission of liability. Most importantly, Kevin noted that the 3-year limitation date was fast approaching. If court proceedings were not issued soon, Paul would lose the right to claim compensation. Mr. Donoghue urgently issued “protective” proceedings at court against Paul’s employer.
Time and events had moved on from when Paul first contacted his previous solicitor. Kevin noted that his medical evidence and claim for quantifiable losses were out of date. He arranged for Paul to be medically examined by a nationally recognised orthopaedic surgeon. This meant that Paul had one of the very best medical experts on his case to help value his claim for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (collectively known as “general damages”).
The expert report also helped Paul in another way. It meant he could fully understand what happened during and after his accident at work. In his expert opinion, the orthopaedic surgeon felt that the fall caused sustained severe bruising to the left side of Paul’s ribcage and triggered previously unknown degenerative change in his lumbar spine. It accelerated his (previously undiagnosed) back problems by 5 years, and directly caused 9 months of symptoms. The surgeon also noted that the fall made Paul’s back vulnerable and that the second accident aggravated his symptoms. This information meant that Paul could now manage his medical condition with confidence.
Mr Donoghue prepared the claim for quantifiable losses (known as “special damages”) and sent these with the medical report to Paul’s employer’s solicitors. He invited an offer of settlement. To keep the pressure on, Kevin:
- entered judgment in court, even though the other solicitors argued about causation and the value of the claim, and
- arranged for a court hearing so that a judge could decide how much Paul’s claim was worth.
Settling Paul’s Accident at Work Claim
The pending court hearing encouraged Paul’s employers to negotiate settlement of the claim. The other solicitors offered £16,152.58 compensation and offered to repay £8,847.42 in benefits Paul had received since the fall. Mr. Donoghue reviewed the offer with Paul and noted that the repayment of benefits calculation was incorrect. He counter-offered £24,726.40 in a detailed letter explaining his reasoning. The other solicitors raised more questions about Paul’s second accident and suggested that they would ask questions of the orthopaedic expert, so keeping the issues of causation and quantum alive.
Kevin stuck to his guns and, after further discussions, Paul’s employers agreed to settle the claim for £24,726.40 plus legal costs. This was almost £9,000 more than their original offer.
Changing solicitors in a personal injury claim is not always the right option. But, in Paul’s case, transferring his case to Donoghue Solicitors meant that he got the maximum compensation he deserved, with the minimum of fuss.