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The Right to Choose Your Solicitor

View profile for Anne Shillitto
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When you have been involved in an accident, particularly in a car or at work, do you know your rights to obtaining legal advice?

After a car accident that is clearly not your fault, you will more than likely get a phone call from the other driver’s insurance company offering effectively to deal with any claim for personal injury on your behalf. 

The caller may lead you to believe that you don’t need a solicitor, and that this is the easiest way of dealing with it, but it is worth remembering that, as they are the insurer for the guilty party, they might not act in your best interests.

Similarly, if you have legal expenses cover on your policy, you may receive a call from your own insurers offering to handle matters on your behalf.

However, it’s unlikely that you will be able to speak to the insurers or their solicitors face to face and each time you call them you’ll probably end up talking to a different person who won’t be familiar with your case.

Only being able to speak to someone over the phone can be frustrating. Furthermore, you’ve got no idea whether the claims handler you’re speaking to is qualified to deal with your case (many are not legally qualified).

The motor insurance industry will go to great lengths to keep their profits up and avoid paying out legal fees and personal injury compensation. This can mean making unrealistically low offers to settle claims, sometimes even before any medical evidence has been obtained, on which you have no opportunity to seek advice regarding the reasonableness of these offers.

The fact is that you are under no obligation to use the insurance company's lawyers or deal with the third-party insurers direct, and despite what you may be told by them, you have every right to instruct an independent solicitor to handle your case, who will provide you with impartial advice.

The insurers' argument for not involving solicitors/independent solicitors is that this keeps the premiums down, but do you know anyone whose insurance premiums have been reduced in the last three years despite a fall in the number of compensation claims? In reality it is a means to an end for increasing their profit and denying injured people real and fair access to justice. 

Similarly, if you suffer an accident at work and indicate that you wish to make a claim for compensation and you are part of a trade union, you may be told that you are not allowed to instruct a solicitor of your own choosing and that the employers will only deal with the union-appointed solicitor.

Again, this is not true; you are free to choose your own local independent solicitor.

So next time you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, don't feel pressurised into agreeing to an insurance company or employers' terms for dealing with your claim.  At least give yourself time to consider your options and remember most local solicitors offer a free face-to-face initial consultation for personal injury claims which gives the solicitor and client the chance to meet personally.

Finally, for peace of mind choose a solicitor who is accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). APIL members are committed to providing the very best service possible and must abide by a code of conduct and a consumer charter.