Medical Solicitors operates very differently from most other law firms. Other firms will try and sign you up to a no win no fee agreement early on, many even send out contractual documentation straightaway, after exchanging a few emails or speaking to you by telephone.
However, we don’t think that’s fair because you’re being asked to commit your case to a particular firm before you’ve even had a chance to see how they perform. This is at a time when most clients are probably feeling vulnerable, as they feel let down by their care providers, and how that can they trust that the law firm they have approached is not going to let them down also?
At our firm, firstly a litigation assistant will speak to you (to take details by email or telephone, whichever is your preference). The litigation assistant then prepares a detailed typed attendance note which is passed to a senior qualified member of the team for assessment straightaway.
The senior member of the team will advise on the way forward, whether that will be raising a complaint to the health provider initially, or whether we need to proceed straight to obtaining the medical records. Whatever the process, we do not ask you to commit to our firm at this stage and our involvement is without obligation. We like to have a period where you see how we perform, and we build up a relationship of trust and confidence. We find this stands us in good stead with our clients throughout usually a long period that they are stuck with us!
At Medical Solicitors, we have an initial screening process during which time we apply for your medical records and take a look at those and also may be going through the complaints process with the healthcare provider. We have amassed a lot of expertise between our various solicitors and legal executives, sometimes it is very clear to us whether there is a case to pursue or not at an early stage. In other more complex cases, we may need to call on our medicolegal experts to give an early opinion. If so, they do this without charge (on a pro bono basis).
Then we decide whether we can further investigate a claim for you and, if so, we will then offer you a no win no fee agreement. At that point it’s entirely your choice whether you want to stick with us. If you feel we have been making good progress for you, providing good levels of communication and you trust us to look after you, you can proceed with us but if not you are free to approach a different firm. If you do accept a no win no fee agreement with us at that point, then the value of our time spent from day one is drawn into that arrangement.
After we take a case on, we have to put in place insurance cover for a potential claim, get formal opinions from medical experts, and once the medical experts have advised on all of the issues, we can submit what is called a Letter of Claim to the care provider. The care provider has a four-month period to respond to that Letter of Claim, to indicate whether they going to admit the claim or defend it. If the claim is admitted, we can usually secure early interim payments of both compensation and costs. The claim is negotiated to a final settlement once the medical evidence is complete in terms of how our client is going to be in the future, so that we can value the claim. In addition, clients are asked to assist us in providing details of any financial losses they have suffered and all evidence has to be gathered for those losses to allow final settlement.
If the claim is denied, then procedures have to be issued and at that stage (or earlier) we will involve a barrister (also known as ‘counsel’). The barrister prepares the court papers, the proceedings are issued, a Particulars of Claim is served on the defendant and the defendant serves a Defence and response. The court then arranges what is called a case management conference hearing to put in place the timetable of directions to take the case to a Trial date.