I’m furious: personal injury law – probably one of the most important areas of law – has been tarnished, not only by lazy solicitors who used to buy in personal injury claims from ropey claims management companies, but by some of the large factory law firms which over-burden their unqualified staff with staggering numbers of cases.
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. 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 fee earner with 500 claims. Shocking. The poor lawyer. The poor clients. This is why much of our work comes from clients switching solicitors to us.
Imagine trying to remember that many names, or even half that number. Most people couldn’t muster 150 Facebook friends, let alone trying to remember the intricacies of 500 cases.
That’s why so many personal injury clients want to switch lawyers. They are sick of chasing their busy fee earners for updates to be met with the refrain: “What’s your reference number?” I bet you want to shout back: “Surely you know me by now!”
For many personal injury clients there is nothing “personal” about the service that they receive. It doesn’t need to be this way.
There is an irony that the more unqualified someone is the more cases that they are forced to run. It would make more sense if the experienced solicitors have the most cases, but the opposite happens.
If you are unlucky enough to be going through a personal injury claim at the moment, then I challenge you to ask your lawyer two questions:
- Are they a qualified solicitor or qualified Legal Executive?
- How many personal injury cases are they running?
My bet is that you will be shocked by the answers.
The reason why such absurdities occur is because many law firm owners selfishly demand substantial salaries; and because most personal injury clients don’t know what to expect during a personal injury claim and, in any event, barring misfortune, the client won’t need to make another personal injury claim in their lifetime, therefore the lawyer does not expect repeat business. Sad – sad but true.
Not only is it impossible to give a good service to so many people, but the standard of the legal advice is often poor. I knew of a case in which a horrible, high-speed car accident claim was run by a “junior paralegal”, whatever that means.
Often whiplash injuries, which don’t fully recover as predicted by a medical expert (often a GP who spends five minutes with the claimant), become really quite complex, way beyond the experience of a junior, unqualified fee earner. At Truth Legal we have seen a number of these cases becoming pain management conditions. (A pain management condition isn’t something that you would wish on your worst enemy). If such a condition is treated by a paralegal as bog-standard whiplash, then there is a high probability that the claim will be under-settled. You can always try suing if the legal advice was negligent, but this is tricky.
If you are unlucky enough to be injured in an accident, then be picky when selecting your lawyer. These are my tips:
- Usually reject the solicitors allocated to you by your insurers. Argue for freedom of choice, after all, you paid for the insurance so seize control.
- If you can meet your lawyer in person, this is best for lawyer and client.
- Ensure that your lawyer is a solicitor by checking them out at http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/
- Use your instinct. Does it “feel” right.
- Seek recommendations from friends and family.
- 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.