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No Win No Fee and Access to Justice

Imagine you are an office worker or labourer, going about your daily business when suddenly a car knocks you down.  Or a pile of scaffolding falls on top of you.  Or you slip and break your leg on a wet supermarket floor.  The injury you suffer leaves you unable to work, the bills and mortgage payments are starting to fall behind, and you now have large medical costs to cover in order to get back to full health.

If you have found yourself in this sort of situation, it is only natural and often necessary for pure survival, to seek compensation from the party whose negligence caused your accident.  However, did you know that legal aid is no longer available for personal injury claims?  This means that if you wish to make a claim against the party that caused your suffering and injuries, you have to pay for your lawyer’s fees and court costs.  These can amount to thousands of pounds, and to make matters worse, if you lose your claim, you could be ordered by the presiding judge to pay for the other party’s court costs as well as your own.

The above scenario sounds rather grim doesn’t it?  But, thanks to the advent of no win no fee arrangements or a ‘conditional fee’ as they are sometimes known, the average person does not have to risk their savings or walk away from the prospect of fighting for compensation due to financial restraints.

No win no fee arrangements

From 1998, no win no fee arrangements have been available for all civil cases except for those involving family matters, in England and Wales.  This has resulted in a negative perception of personal injury law, with lawyers being accused of being ambulance chasers and newspapers regularly screaming out headlines with the words ‘compensation culture’ highlighted in bold.  However, the reality of the situation is compensation claims have levelled off and in some areas such as work place accidents and clinical negligence, the number of claims brought before the courts have dropped[1].

The stats

There are also claims that the emergence of no win no fee arrangements has created a risk adverse culture in our society whereby we “wrap children up in cotton wool” and employers are overburdened with health and safety prevention which depletes their profits.  However,  this argument can be turned on its head by the view that the advent of no win no fee arrangements has possibly led to a decrease in the number of individuals injured or killed because of the negligence of others.  As mentioned above, medical negligence and workplace injury claims have actually decreased since the mid-1990s when no win no fee arrangements were introduced.  Childhood accidents have also fallen sharply over the last two decades.  One could propose the theory that by making it easier for people to make claims for compensation ensures that businesses, schools and other organisations are kept in check and prevented from taking short cuts in health and safety in order to control costs.

No win no fee arrangements have allowed those who are at the most risk of exploitation, the very young, the very old and the disadvantaged, to have the ability to claim compensation from anyone whose negligent actions result in an injury to their person.  And very few individuals could dispute that this increased access to justice is not a positive development for society as a whole.

If you would like to find out more about no win no fee please contact us on 0800 221 8888 to talk with one of our friendly advisers.

We welcome any comments you may have on this post, please feel free to add your thoughts below.