Be careful with claims consultants

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

I fell over in the local supermarket and broke my arm. The floor was wet and there was no warning so I want to make a claim against the supermarket for loss of earnings. I was going to use one of the claims management companies that advertise but a frien

I fell over in the local supermarket and broke my arm. The floor was wet and there was no warning so I want to make a claim against the supermarket for loss of earnings. I was going to use one of the claims management companies that advertise but a friend has told me not to trust them."

MANY people considering taking action over a personal injury may have seen advertisements by, or been approached by, a claims assessor (or claims manager), offering to take on their case.

Before agreeing to use them, you should consider the following.

n The claims assessor will not be a solicitor and may not have a solicitor taking responsibility for the case. If this is so, the assessor will not be able to claim compensation through the courts and will pressure you to settle the case out of court. This may be inadvisable if it is possible to get a better award by going to court.

n If no solicitor is involved, any agreement to settle a claim cannot come under a conditional fee agreement and there may therefore be no control over how much you are asked to pay.

n A claims assessor who does not use a solicitor is likely to ask you to pay a contingency fee. This means you agree to pay a percentage of damages if the case is successful and, often, nothing if the case if lost. You should be aware that, for example, while paying 50 per cent of £1,000 damages may be acceptable, 50 per cent of £10,000 may not.

You should ask whether there are any 'hidden extras', for example, do disbursements (the costs, for example, of expert witnesses) come out of the contingency fee or are they charged in addition. You need to consider what will happen if you enter into an agreement with a claims assessor but find the settlement offerred unacceptable.

You may be better talking to a solicitor who specialises in personal injury. You can find one by looking at the Law Society website or by contacting your local CAB. You may also find that you have legal cover with your household or car insurance or through any trade union membership.

Although free legal help is not usually available for personal injury cases, a solicitor would be able to discuss ways of paying for your case, such as a no-win-no-fee arrangement.

For a useful fact sheet on Personal Injury claims, visit www.adviceguide.org.uk

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