You may have noticed that there are a lot more ads for lawyers around these days. On the television, on websites and on the sides of buses, many law firms advertise that they will resolve your legal matter on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis.
It sounds inviting, particularly if you don’t think you have the money to pay for a lawyer, but what does No Win No Fee really mean?
Here we’ll explain what is involved in a No Win No Fee agreement so that you are fully informed before you choose someone to represent you.
When do No Win No Fee agreements apply?
No Win No Fee agreements (sometimes also known as ‘No Win No Pay’) with law firms generally only apply to personal injury litigation. That is, when you go to court to seek compensation for a slip and fall injury in a public place, for example, or the harm caused by a motor vehicle accident. Such agreements are not permitted when it comes to criminal and family law matters.
No Win No Fee agreements are known as contingent or conditional-costs agreements by lawyers, and there are strict professional and legislative rules around how these can be offered and what information law firms must disclose.
The reason for such agreements is obvious. While in most circumstances where legal representation is required you need to pay the bill upfront, or in an ongoing way until the matter is resolved, No Win No Fee only requires you to settle the account if there is an outcome in your favour. For people with limited funds to spend on legal representation, this is an easier way they can engage a lawyer to have the best chance at a settlement.
What to look out for
While the phrase No Win No Fee seems pretty simple and straightforward, there are a few things to know before you engage a lawyer on this basis.
Firstly, law firms that offer No Win No Fee arrangements will only take your case on if they assess it has a good chance of success. It is irresponsible for a firm to suggest a conditional costs agreement if your claim is unlikely to succeed.
It’s also advisable to ask your lawyer what is meant by ‘a win’. Generally this means a judgment in a court, a settlement of a claim or any other agreement (such as one reached through mediation or arbitration) which resolves the matter at hand, but in any of these situations, the amount you ‘win’ could be significantly less than you imagined.
Next, be aware that ‘No Fee’ generally refers to your lawyer’s professional charges and doesn’t include ‘disbursements’ – the other costs involved in taking legal action, such as court and lodgement fees, the cost of medical assessments, the fees paid to expert witnesses and other outlays on administration for the case.
Other risks to be aware of
No legal action is risk-free. When you go to court to seek a decision on whether you’re entitled to compensation, there’s always the chance your case won’t succeed. In this situation, you can be ordered to pay the other party’s legal costs.
It’s also important to get a clear view from your lawyer at the outset as to whether they charge an ‘uplift’ fee. This is a fee law firms are permitted to charge if the outcome of the case is successful, and represents a reward for the risk the law firm assumes if the case is unsuccessful and the client pays no fees. In some arrangements, this fee can be up to 25% of the total legal costs.
Another question to ask is whether interest will be charged on your account with the law firm from the time it is created, even if the fees are not payable until a successful outcome is achieved.
Many people who need the services of a lawyer to make a claim for compensation are put off by the expense involved. No Win No Fee agreements make access to proper legal representation easier, reducing the stress and worry involved in finding someone to represent you.
At Lifestyle Injury Lawyers, we are expert Gold Coast personal injury compensation lawyers in the areas of public liability, road accident claims, workers’ compensation, and total and permanent disability. We offer No Win No Fee agreements but are always upfront with clients from the start about the issues raised in this article. We’ll discuss the implications of No Win No Fee with you in an initial free, no-obligation consultation so call us today on 07 5627 0321.