Thomas O’Sullivan is a personal injury lawyer at Donoghue Solicitors. In this blog post he compares representing claimants and defendants and explains why he prefers claimant work.
It might help if I explain the law before discussing the differences between claimant and defendant work.
In any civil claim, there are two sides: claimant and defendant.
The claimant is the person or entity suing (bringing a case to court). The defendant is the party being sued.
How Claimants Bring Civil Claims
Many civil claims are based in tort, which is “a civil wrong”. They usually allege negligence. To succeed in a negligence claim, in basic terms the claimant must prove that the defendant:
- owed them a duty of care
- breached that duty
- caused them reasonably foreseeable loss or damage as a result.
Claimants must prove all three criteria to succeed.
How to Prove a Negligence Claim
Imagine you suffered an injury in a road accident through no fault of your own. You decide to bring a personal injury case relying on the tort of negligence. The law works like this:
- the other driver owed you a duty of care (because of a statute, or Parliament-made, law: in this case the Road Traffic Act 1988).
- they breached that duty by carelessly crashing into your car
- you suffered losses (personal injury, property damage, loss of earnings, and other expenses) as a result.
But how do you get justice? The courts cannot turn back time. Instead, judges aim to put claimants into the pre-accident position. They do this by:
- making findings of liability (responsibility)
- awarding compensation
- other remedies.
Most people seek justice and compensation by instructing a specialist firm like Donoghue Solicitors.
But often, if you have a lawyer representing you, so does the defendant.
Representing the Defendant in Personal Injury Claims
I worked at a large defendant law firm before coming to Donoghue Solicitors. I specialised in defending personal injury accident claims. My main clients were two global insurance companies worth millions of pounds.
My job was to:
- fight claims so my insurer clients could avoid paying compensation
- save them as much money as possible when paying compensation claims.
Defendant lawyers have a variety of legal tools to achieve these aims. One is to allege “fundamental dishonesty”.
Alleging Fundamental Dishonesty
The Civil Procedure Rules set out how civil compensation claims and court proceedings are handled in England and Wales.
In personal injury claims, the Rules protect genuine claimants from paying defendants’ costs if they lose. This protection is known as “Qualified One-Way Costs Shifting”. But it disappears if a court finds that the claimant is ‘fundamentally dishonest’.
You can see how this could scare away claimants. Instead of a compensation award, they could be left with:
- a damaged personal reputation
- legal bills for thousands of pounds.
This makes unfounded fundamental dishonesty arguments an often-used tactic, even if they leave a sour taste in the mouth to all concerned.
That cynical approach to personal injury claims is one reason why I decided to make a career change.
Representing the Claimant as a Personal Injury Lawyer
Now I work as a claimant lawyer and help clients with:
- road traffic accidents
- accidents at work
- accidents in public places
- and more.
Where appropriate, I represent my firm’s clients in their accident injury claims on a “No win, No fee” basis.
I am proud to work as a lawyer who helps accident victims get the justice and compensation they deserve. It’s hugely satisfying.
And my experience at the defendant firm helps. I am a “poacher turned gamekeeper” and know many of the other sides’ tricks and tactics.
But, after working for the other side, why do I find working as a claimant personal injury lawyer more rewarding? Here are five reasons:
1. Dealing with clients from start to finish
One of the first things I noticed about Donoghue Solicitors is that the firm’s personal injury lawyers help clients from first consultation to claim settlement.
It was not like this at the defendant firm. There my clients were insurers. We did not have, or need, much contact. When we communicated, I dealt with anonymous members of a claims “team”.
Dealing with the same people throughout is much more fulfilling for both lawyer and client. Clients prefer working with one person who knows their case in detail. This leaves them feeling confident, at ease, and most importantly, valued. Personal injury lawyers get to know their clients’ cases well and work more efficiently as a result.
2. Getting to know clients personally
Working with clients throughout their claims helps me build genuine relationships.
Some civil compensation claims can take years. During that time, lawyers get to know clients on a personal level. The personal connection gives them a sense of trust and comfort. It helps clients to know that they can:
- rely on an expert to navigate our complex legal system
- concentrate on recovering after their accidents.
And it matters to personal injury lawyers too. We are not robots. Understanding and compassion set us apart from lawyers in other fields. This makes winning cases for clients more satisfying.
Often these relationships result in recommendations for legal help for family and friends. That is the ultimate proof of a job well done.
3. Helping innocent accident victims get justice and compensation
The defendant is at fault in almost all personal injury claims. Personal injury lawyers do not submit civil claims unless they:
- are confident that their clients are innocent
- have solid legal grounds to seek compensation.
When representing defendants my job was to save my insurer client money. They were already worth millions of pounds. In effect, I was helping the rich stay rich.
It is important that both sides get fearless legal representation But there is no better feeling than helping an innocent claimant get compensation to put their lives back on track.
Bringing a compensation claim is about more than money to most of my clients. Often, they want:
- the court’s acknowledgement that they were an innocent accident victim
- to be heard
- lessons learned.
Being able to achieve these and other things for my clients is extremely gratifying.
4. Receiving genuine thanks and appreciation
This heading speaks for itself. At the end of any claim, hearing positive words from clients means a great deal. Often, a quick email or online review expressing thanks and appreciation keeps me going during the daily battles with defendant insurers and lawyers.
5. Working within a specialist, dedicated team
I am fortunate to work alongside some top-quality personal injury lawyers. Donoghue Solicitors is an award-winning law firm, led by Kevin Donoghue, solicitor. The firm has helped thousands of people get justice.
Kevin leads by example, fearlessly fighting for his clients and taking cases others avoid. He is constantly pushing me and my fellow lawyers to give everything in service of our clients. It is inspirational and exciting to be a part of such a dedicated, experienced, and talented team.
Suitability of Claimant Personal Injury Work
I am grateful for the opportunity of working for a defendant firm. I learned a lot and the experience led me to my present role at Donoghue Solicitors.
But without doubt, working as a claimant personal injury lawyer suits my personality and skillset. I look forward to helping many more clients get the justice and compensation they deserve.
Thomas O’Sullivan is a Trainee Chartered Legal Executive. He helps people win their personal injury compensation claims. Contact Tom to start your claim today.