Inter Law – No win no fee brand tarnished

The reputation of ?no win, no fee‘ cases has been tainted in the last few years due to a number of high profile cases.

It is argued that this concept effectively replaced legal aid for routine accident claims in 2000, with a ?misleading’ tag-line for deals that are more formally known as conditional fee agreements (CFAs).

Much of this agreements bad press has revolved around claims that some insurance companies had sent bands of representatives on to the high streets of Britain to sign up unsuspecting clients, yet in the past few years thousands of accident victims have seen their payments for damages consumed by the costs associated with these companies.

In 2004, women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by disgraced gynaecologist Rodney Leward, saw their case collapse after a High Court Judge ordered an urgent investigation in to their solicitor, Jane Loveday, and her handling of their multi-million pound compensation claim.

At the end of the case, the women each received a bill for between £12,000 and £14,000 to pay their part of the court costs. One of the women involved said, ?I thought it was a ?no win, no fee’ case. I asked a load of questions about what happens if?and I said am I on a ?no win, no fee’ aren’t I? I got sort of sidelined. I was very naïve’

It could be said that a CFA or ?no win, no fee’ case allows a lawyer to surrender their fees if they think their client has a good case and they themselves have got it wrong. It also allows them to charge an extra amount if they win, which the other side are liable to pay, effectively doubling their fees.

Andrew Twambley, a managing partner of Manchester solicitors Amelans, who run Injury Lawyers 4U said, ?CFAs have been unfairly discredited because of concerns over one or tow high profile incidents, whereas millions and millions of cases have been done successfully?.

Twambley argues that the hole left by legal aid has been filled by conditional fees, which is crucial to the government and there outlook on controlling spending on public funding for legal cases. ?Decrying CFAs is like banning flying because a couple of planes have crashed. On the whole, conditional fees are a really good thing for providing access to justice for people who would never get it. Having said that, people need to know what they’re doing and be careful about who they go to?.

However, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (Nacab) doesn’t seem as convinced about the positives of CFAs. They argue that most personal injury cases are settled out of court for in the region of £3,000 to £4,000 which is not inclusive of costs. James Sandbach of Nacab says, ?Costs under CFA can be almost as much, and instantly whatever you’ve gained is wiped out.?

?’No win, no fee’ does not mean ?no win, no cost’. If a case is unsuccessful, the client will be liable for their opponents’ legal costs unless they have insurance to cover this.?

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