Will my solicitor charge a 25% success fee?
When you enter into a "No Win, No Fee" arrangement (a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) it is on the basis that your solicitor fees are paid from the compensation you are awarded, if the claim is successful. This is known as the "success fee".
If the claim is not successful then you have no fees to pay.
The Ministry of Justice has capped the amount that solicitors can ask for as a success fee at 25% of the total compensation amount.
Why do solicitors charge success fees?
When the ability to claim Legal Aid for personal injury (and many other) claims was removed in 2000 it left many claimants unable to afford to bring a matter to Court.
To ensure that everyone had access to justice (a fundamental principle of English law) success fees were introduced - enabling claimants to pursue a claim in Court, without risk of being charged solicitors fees if their case was lost.
Of course, if the case is lost the solicitor will not be paid (No Win, No Fee).
However it is important that solicitors are not discouraged from taking on more marginal cases where the success of the outcome is not guaranteed. A 25% success fee for the cases they do win helps to cover any costs incurred by cases they may lose.
Who pays the success fee?
Until the new laws in 2013 the success fee was paid by the defendant, essentially as part of the legal costs of the claim, and the claimant kept 100% of the compensation.
However the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) moved the liability for the payment of success fees from the defendant to the claimant, although other legal costs are generally still paid by the defendant.
Do all solicitors charge 25%?
The purpose of changing the law was to encourage solicitors to be more competitive and charge lower success fees - although in general this does not seem to have happened.
Before proceeding with a case a solicitor should carefully assess extent of the claimant's injuries and the circumstances of an accident.
For example, in the situation where a cyclist has broken his front teeth through hitting a kerb stone when falling from his cycle; as well as understanding the injuries sustained, the solicitor will ask questions such as the following:
- Was anyone else involved in the accident? i.e did you have to avoid or collide with another road user?
- Did a fault in the road surface cause you to lose control of your cycle? If so, what was that fault and do you have any evidence?
- What time of day did your accident take place? Was it light or dark? Did you display lights to make you visible to other road users?
Asking these questions will help the solicitor to determine the likely outcome of the claim and how much compensation the claimant might be awarded - and therefore his potential success fee.
Compensation awards are granted to cover the costs of any losses incurred by the claimant - such as loss of earnings and the cost of treatment and other expenses - as well as for the pain and suffering sustained as a result of the defendant's negligence.