What can I do if I’m not happy with my brain injury solicitor?
If you, or somebody close to you has suffered a brain injury, you will know of the life-changing effects it can have. Legal claims for brain injury are almost always complex in one way or another. This is why it’s of paramount importance for you to have a specialist solicitor on your side, who has specific experience in dealing with brain injury cases.
Sadly, not all brain injury sufferers are represented by solicitors who are qualified and experienced in this highly-specialist area. This may be because a solicitor was chosen during a stressful time, or on a recommendation from a friend, or even by way of a referral to an insurance company’s panel of pre-selected solicitors.
Even when brain-injured people do instruct a specialist solicitor, they can sometimes be left feeling unhappy with their choice.
In this blog I will:
- List some common complaints that brain-injured people have against their solicitors
- Set out the rights of injured people who want a new solicitor to represent them
- Provide some advice on what you should look for in a new solicitor
Problems you may have with your solicitor
There are numerous issues that brain-injured people may have with their solicitor. I will run through some common gripes below.
- ‘My solicitor doesn’t believe I have a brain injury’
We are seeing this problem more often as awareness about subtle/mild brain injury and post-concussion syndrome grows. We previously took over a brain injury case where the existing solicitor would have settled the case as a straightforward whiplash claim. If you think you or a loved one may have suffered a brain injury that has not been diagnosed, it absolutely must be investigated.
- ‘They don’t get back to me’, ‘My solicitor is never available to talk when I am’, ‘I speak to a different person every time I call’
These are such simple, yet important things to get right and in my mind, there is no excuse for a poor level of service. We strive to exceed our client’s expectations, by keeping our caseloads at a manageable level so we are not too busy, always responding to calls and emails promptly, working flexible hours so that we can we can speak at times that are convenient for our clients and by working in small teams (usually three people per case) so that there is always somebody available to speak to who knows the details of your claim.
- ‘They said I don’t have a good case’
Your solicitor might be right, because sometimes, responsibility for a brain injury cannot be proved. However, there are cases where solicitors overlook something key or they reached their conclusion by relying on unsound expert advice. If you think this might be the case, a fresh pair of eyes considering the case or a new expert opinion could make all the difference.
- ‘Nothing is happening with my claim’ ‘The claim is taking too long’
All claims take time, but claims that are not actively managed to avoid delay can lose pace and end up taking far longer than necessary to conclude. We work with lots of other parties and delay can be caused by any one of them, including experts, the courts and our opponents. When faced with potential delay we take action to ensure the claim keeps progressing. For example, in cases where liability is not admitted at an early stage we will issue court proceedings as soon as we can.
- ‘I haven’t had any rehabilitation’
Early rehabilitation can make a huge difference to people who have suffered a brain injury. All solicitors working on brain injury cases should be considering securing any necessary rehabilitation for their clients at the earliest possible stage. This is something we do particularly well at my firm. The ‘Legal 500’ directory has described Bolt Burdon Kemp as ‘renowned for its commitment to the early rehabilitation of clients’.
- ‘They don’t explain things in a way I can understand’, ‘I’m not kept up to date with what’s happening’
These are simple client service issues that may come from a lack of understanding or empathy by your solicitor. It could also be because they are too busy to dedicate time to making sure you are up to date and happy with the progress of your claim. We work hard to try and explain things in a simple, ‘non-legal jargon’ way throughout the life of your claim and we will always have time to go through things with you if there is anything you do not understand.
- ‘The value of my claim is much lower than I expected’
This is probably one of two things – either your solicitor hasn’t explained how your claim has been valued in a way you can understand or there are areas where you should be compensated that have not been included in your claim. We do our best to ensure that we explain everything to do with your claim in a way that is easy to understand and if something is not as you expected, we are very open and will explain why.
- ‘They aren’t supportive or understanding of my needs’ ‘They don’t listen to my concerns about experts/my case manager/my deputy/my support workers/my therapists’
Because we work with brain-injured people and their families every day, we are in-tune with the difficulties that might be faced and the importance of having a ‘good fit’ when it comes to other parties that may need to be instructed, such as a case manager, a professional deputy, support workers and therapists. When you have people coming into your home to provide treatment or support it’s crucial that you feel comfortable with that person. It’s important to speak up if you feel that a particular person is not right for you, even if they are doing their job competently. We take any concerns our clients have about other parties very seriously and will work to find a better fit if a relationship isn’t working out as well as expected.
- ‘The person running my case is too junior’
If your brain injury case is being managed by a paralegal or a newly qualified solicitor, they might not have enough experience to be dealing with such complex work. The overall management of all our cases is carried out by solicitors with specialist experience in dealing with brain injury cases. Our team deals only with brain injury cases and all of our solicitors are accredited by APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers). Our senior solicitors who deal with the overall management of the cases are supported with the day-to-day work on the cases, by more junior solicitors and paralegals.
- ‘Something is not quite right’
Perhaps none of the above complaints apply, but you feel that the relationship with your solicitor is not quite working out how you had expected. We are all individuals, and sometimes we just don’t click with somebody, for no particular reason. Because brain injury claims are complex and involved, you need to be able to trust and confide in your solicitor. If you are feeling this way, it might be worth considering a change.
I’m not happy – what are my rights?
Whatever the reason is, you do not have to stay with a solicitor you are unhappy with and you do not have to justify why you want to change solicitor. It is not uncommon for people with brain injury claims to change solicitors and you can consider making a change at any time during the claim.
If you have decided you want to change solicitor and you have found a new solicitor to deal with your claim, you don’t even need to worry about telling your old solicitor, as your new solicitor can make contact with them on your behalf and start the process of transferring your case.
The process of transferring your case depends upon a number of factors, including the funding arrangements already in place, where the case is in the claims process and the approach of the solicitor you want to leave. My colleague, Cheryl Abrahams, who deals with brain injury cases for children, has written in more detail about this process in her recent blog.
What should I look for in a new brain injury solicitor?
If you are looking for a new solicitor to deal with a brain injury case, I would recommend that you look for a firm that:
- has specialist solicitors who work only on brain injury cases;
- is responsive and flexible to the needs of their clients;
- has solicitors who are approachable and care about their clients;
- is passionate about early rehabilitation for injured people;
- is tenacious and strives to get the best results for their clients in a timely manner
If you have already started a claim but you are not happy with your solicitor, we are more than happy to see if we can help.
Laura Barlow is an associate solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp in the Adult Brain Injury team. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Laura free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4859 or at email@example.com. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury Team.