To help you work out whether your choice of solicitor is the right one, here are some of the questions that you might want to ask a solicitor who you are considering to appoint to look after your head injury claim.
The solicitor you instruct will make a significant difference to your claim. The key is to ask the right questions and to look for an understanding lawyer with the specialist brain injury experience to represent you properly. If you are at all unsure – talk to someone you know who works with head injuries – they may have a recommendation.
Have you and your team had specialist training on brain injuries, either legal or medical?
What do you do for your clients to ensure that they can get rehabilitation support and financial help in the early stages of the compensation claim?
Working effectively on behalf of people who have suffered head or brain injuries requires training which is specifically relevant to brain injury – being trained just for general personal injury work is not enough. Your solicitor should be able to tell you what training he or she has had that they can put into practice for the benefit specifically of head injured clients.
Many personal injury solicitors in England and Wales are members of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (“APIL”) – and APIL have a special interest group for brain injury. Is your solicitor a member of that?
What would you say sets you and your team apart from other solicitors who advertise that they can represent a client with a head injury?
Legal claims these days are not just about legal issues. A good solicitor will recognise that helping a client with his or her immediate problems after a head injury is a key part of their service – even if the solicitor cannot directly assist, they should refer you on to someone who can.
If liability for your injuries is admitted or clearly going to be established, your solicitor can press the insurance company of the person or company responsible for interim funding to help with any financial hardship, expenses or to help pay for treatment and therapy that will assist you in coming to terms with your head injury. What are they going to do to help you in the first few months of starting to work for you? How are they going to help you to access the rehabilitation that you need?
Will you be my primary contact during my claim? Who else in your firm would be involved in my claim?
Your solicitor should know why they want to work for people after head or brain injury. If they really are dedicated to their work, they will know what makes them different from solicitors who are not specialists in this area. They should be able to answer that question clearly and with meaning.
In giving the answer they should be able to flag up what they have to offer in terms of support, experience and skills that are going to be useful to you in recovering from your injuries.
How will you value my claim for damages?
You should be personally comfortable with the legal representatives that you meet who will be dealing with your head injury claim. Sometimes there may just be one person; sometimes they may work as a team.
There is nothing wrong necessarily with a team working on your behalf to pursue your claim. However, that team must be headed by someone with a lot of experience in working with people after brain or head injury, and everyone in the team should have had relevant training and supervision.
You need to know that the person who you think is dealing with your claim actually is. Some law firms will move claim handling to more junior staff once the case is started. It is only right that you know what the plan is at the outset.
How often will I see you during the claim and how will I be kept up to date? How will you keep in touch with me?
A solicitor specialising in head injury claims will recognise the importance of consulting with expert witnesses that are experienced in brain injury assessments, including doctors, psychologists, case managers and care experts. In order to fully assess and show the effects of your head injury, your solicitor should also recognise the importance of talking to family members, friends and work colleagues to build up a picture of the impact which your head injury has had upon your life.
Of your personal injury cases, how many are for clients who have suffered a head or brain injury? On average, how many cases do you and the members of your team deal with at any one time?
If you have suffered from a serious injury, it is vital that you get to know in person the solicitor who will be looking after your claim. Head injury related problems can be complex, and subtle, and your solicitor should be able to meet you face to face at the beginning of your claim and at intervals during your claim.
Face to face meetings should happen, but most communications will be in between meetings. Your solicitor should ask you how you prefer to be kept up to date. You may have memory or language difficulties that your solicitor should take on board in planning what will work best. What works for the law firm may not work for you!
Can you give me any examples of some of the head injury claims that have you worked on in the past six months?
This will give you a bit of an insight into how your solicitor works. You could ask roughly what proportion or percentage of his or her clients have brain or head injuries.
If your solicitor is dealing with many cases at once, it may be more difficult to focus on your case, unless he or she is working as part of a team that means that you will be well looked after.
What is your personal involvement with brain injury associations, support groups and charities that help people after brain injury?
A solicitor must respect the confidentiality of their clients at all times; however without revealing any identities or fine details, your solicitor should be able to explain some of the types of head injury claims that he or she has dealt with recently.
Have they dealt with situations similar or comparable to yours? What did they do to help that client?
If your solicitor has a real commitment to supporting people after brain injury, they or their team members may be actively involved in working to help charity or support groups. This demonstrates a real empathy with clients and is a way of giving something back to the community.
How did you first become involved in brain injury cases and why did you choose to work in that field?
The law firm may also be involved in sponsorship or corporate support for charities and organisations.
This might just give you a real insight into why your solicitor works with people with head or brain injuries. If this is not normally what they do, the answer might be a bit thin!
How am I going to pay able to pay for my legal costs whilst my claim is processed?
It is very important that your solicitor is able to explain in terms that you can understand how your legal costs will be arranged and paid for. Sometimes it may be necessary for someone to assist you with details of the legal funding arrangement if you have difficulty understanding yourself: such as a close relative, partner or friend. It is important that your solicitor makes you fully aware of the legal costs and the options which you may have. All legal costs details must be confirmed in writing to you at the beginning of your claim.