24th May 2017
Pitfalls of the Panel (Solicitor)
As an expert personal injury and clinical negligence solicitor, I regularly meet clients who are at best disappointed and disillusioned regarding the service they had received from the solicitor their insurers recommended to them.
Even worse, some clients have, with the benefit of hindsight, realised that they have been badly let down and that the settlement achieved may not have been the best settlement on the evidence that was available. My team and I will often be asked whether an existing case can be saved and brought back on track, or whether there is further redress if the case has already been concluded with the insurers.
It must not be forgotten that despite the efforts of the insurance industry to tarnish the reputation of the many competent, professional personal injury and clinical negligence solicitors, we do a fantastic job in securing compensation for what can often be life changing consequences following an accident.
Usually damages are recovered that the injured party needs for the rest of their life, without those damages the injured person’s lifestyle would be significantly worse, often through no fault of their own.
Equally we should not trivialise the fortunately less severe cases, which are no less important to the victim, but which again should be pursued with the goal of achieving nothing less than full compensation for the losses which the innocent Claimant is entitled to pursue.
Having had many occasions where I feel the client has suffered at the hands of the panel solicitor recommended by the insurer, I thought it would be helpful to consider some of the important reasons for the client to seek freedom of choice and explore the local option, before possibly suffering the pitfalls of the panel solicitor.
Experience and qualifications
All of my personal injury and clinical negligence staff are legally qualified and are not just claims handlers paid to manage a computer system which processes a transaction.
A personal injury or clinical negligence claim is often not suited to a one size fits all computer process and it is important that you are instructing a lawyer who is experienced in the field of injury law, trained and where appropriate holds accreditations to evidence their expertise.
I myself am accredited with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers as a senior litigator, which requires continuing professional development and training, ultimately for the benefit of my clients.
A dedicated contact
None of us like ringing a call centre and being put on hold, regardless of how good the music is! At Rogers & Norton all clients are provided with a named lawyer, who will be your specific contact, together with an alternative name in the event of absence or illness.
It is important to know that you will not be ringing a call centre, but instead have the benefit of a dedicated direct dial telephone number and an email address to speak to your lawyer, who will know your case in depth should you need advice or assurance.
We are happy to meet with you
In the modern era, phone calls and in particular emails are a fast and easy means of communication and something I fully embrace. Sometimes, however a face-to-face meeting over a coffee can help immensely.
We are happy to see you at your home, in the office or indeed in the more serious cases in hospital.
It is crucial that unlike the panel solicitor who may be hundreds of miles away in a warehouse, we are accessible and able to meet with you at your convenience.
Local knowledge is immense
We will often drive the same roads and junctions with you and therefore know where you have had an accident and understand the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the local highway!
We may also know the workplace in which you had an accident, indeed we may have pursued a claim against that employer before and understand their policies and procedures. We shop in the same shops and often socialise in the same places as our clients and therefore have an immense bank of knowledge which can only help when presenting, what is often a written claim to the insurers.
The local knowledge we possess can mean our reports our more thoroughly researched and in turn better presented, all for our clients benefit. A recent example of the use of local knowledge is a serious cycling injury claim I am handling. The client had been recommended to use me after a collision with a motorist, they had suffered a serious back injury and were wearing a spinal brace. They were keen to use a local solicitor as they had heard of other cyclists not getting the support they needed from a remote panel solicitor.
Due to the client’s incapacity and discomfort, I went to their home to discuss the case in greater detail to see what else I could discover. There was some confusion as to what had caused the accident to actually happen, so I decided to incorporate the scene into my Sunday morning ride. This decision meant I was able to familiarise myself with the road layout and the positioning of the sun, both of which were crucial factors to liability at the specific time of the accident.
The client, a very experienced cyclist, was pleased to be able to talk with someone with an understanding of the sport, indeed they even provided me some helpful tips on what I should be looking for when I purchased my new bike whilst I acted in the case.
By way of summary, many clients I have acted for have either instructed me to save or resurrect a case after a poor experience from a panel Solicitor, or have consulted me following a second event where “they will never use the insurers recommended solicitor again”. Using a local expert will ultimately benefit all aspects of the case and ensure you recover full compensation.
Mark Hambling is a Director of Rogers & Norton Solicitors and Accredited to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers as a Senior Litigator. He can be contacted on 01603 675611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.