Terms and Conditions
1. The contents of this Web Site is the copyright of Alan Curtis Solicitors ltd. 2. You may download, store and use the Material for your own personal use, research or that of your firm and Company. You may not publish, retransmit, redistribute or make the same available on any Web Site, On-Line service or Bulletin Board of your own or of any other party or make the same available in hard copy or on any other media without Alan Curtis’s express prior written consent. 3. Nothing on this Web Site constitutes advice nor does the transmission, downloading or sending of any information or the material create any contractual relationship. 4. This Web Site may contain links to external sites outside the control of Alan Curtis Solicitors and we accept no liability of responsibility for the contents of those external sites and you enter them at your own risk. 5. Alan Curtis Solicitors accepts no liability or responsibility whatsoever for any loss or damage suffered by any use of the information contained on this web site or any other web site referred to or linked through the web site. By your use of this web site you are deemed to accept the above terms and conditions.
6. We may record telephone conversations to offer you additional security, resolve complaints and improve our service standards. Conversations may also be monitored for staff training purposes. Important Note Alan Curtis Solicitors is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Established in the UK, the firm is responsible for compliance with the solicitors rules – available online at www.sra.org.uk .
Introduction to Alan Curtis Solicitors Limited
And information in accordance with the Solicitors Regulation Authority Rules
This information pack is prepared by Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd (company registration number 6048956) and has been designed to help you, our client, understand the claim process from beginning to end. Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (registration number 450129) and are governed by strict rules and regulations which mean that certain information must be given to each client in writing before we can conduct a case on your behalf. We have tried to simplify matters as much as we can and would ask that you take time to read through this document. Hopefully this will explain everything that you need to know about us, the running of your case and the rules and regulations but if you have any further questions now or at any time during the conduct of your case please do not hesitate to call us.
Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd
The firm of Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd has two directors; Alan Curtis and Simon Jenkins. The firm was founded by Alan in April 1997 and Simon joined in 2001. The firm was a general high street practice until 2001 when the partners made a decision to move away from general work and specialise in the area of personal injury claims, particularly claims as a result of road traffic accidents. The partnership was incorporated into a limited company from 1st October 2007. Alan Curtis is a member and Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. He has over 17 years’ experience in this particular field. At present we are working on behalf of over 1,200 clients and receive instructions from approximately 100 new clients each month. Each year we recover millions of pounds in compensation for our clients.
At the conclusion of each case we send a client satisfaction questionnaire to all clients. Clients do not have to take the time to complete these questionnaires and return them, but most choose to do so. We pride ourselves on the fact that every one is complimentary and we would welcome the opportunity to show any client the completed questionnaires. Here are a few testimonials of the many hundreds that we have received.
…..very helpful and couldn’t do enough for me…..the service was extremely efficient …..I think that you have well researched the needs of the claimant and covered all eventualities…I was very impressed with the way in which you dealt with my claim …..The service was very good and thorough ….. I would gladly recommend you to others…..
Client care is our number one priority and we never forget that without satisfied clients we have no business and we genuinely believe that the service we offer our clients cannot be beaten.
Clients come to us from a variety of sources including local advertising, word of mouth and referral recommendations. We are aware that advertising has limited effect and we believe that personal recommendation is a much better source of work. We have built relationships with a number of garages, body-shops and car recovery companies who recommend clients to us on the basis of our reputation.
WE GUARANTEE YOU 100% OF YOUR COMPENSATION
Vehicle Assist Ltd (VA)
VA is primarily a car hire company that provides replacement vehicles to clients on the basis of a credit hire agreement. VA is an associated but separate business in which both Directors of Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd have a financial interest and in which Alan Curtis is himself a Director. VA refers clients to Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd to recover damages for personal injury and/or any financial losses.
VA conducts itself with the same levels of honesty and integrity as Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd. VA is not a firm of solicitors and is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They do not give legal advice. You do not enjoy the same protection with them as you have with us as a result of instructing us as your solicitors.
VA is regulated by the Ministry of Justice (registration number CRM 3056). There are strict codes of conduct and procedures for complaints handling. If you require a copy of their complaints procedure it is available on request.
Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd pay a fee to VA for each case they refer to us, called a referral fee. Currently that fee is £350 plus VAT. We need to tell you about this arrangement but it do not affect your claim in any way. The referral fee is paid by the firm for the services VA provides to the firm; there is no charge to you and no part of this fee is paid by you, directly or indirectly; you receive 100% of your compensation. VA has no influence over the advice provided by Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd and although they recommend our firm you are free to choose to instruct a solicitor of your choice. Any advice that we give will be independent and you are free to raise questions on any aspect of the case. We confirm that any information disclosed by you will not be disclosed to VA unless we receive your express permission. For this we have enclosed a form of authority for you to sign and return. If at any stage we identify that a conflict of interest has arisen we may be obliged to cease acting for you. In fact at present VA makes no profit from the referral fees as these are set at a sum sufficient to cover its costs and expenses of acquiring and introducing clients. VA currently pays a referral fee to its referrers which is currently set at £250 plus VAT where appropriate.
In addition to referring clients to Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd, VA provides replacement vehicles to clients whose vehicles have been damaged or destroyed as a result of a non-fault road traffic accident. VA has a current fleet of over 80 vehicles which it provides to clients under the terms of a credit hire scheme. All vehicles are under six months old and are thoroughly checked and cleaned prior to being provided to clients. VA will where possible ensure that clients are provided with a vehicle that suits their needs and is comparable in size and prestige to their own. VA will not ask you to pay for this service at once but will ask you to sign a ‘credit hire’ agreement. What this means is that they will extend credit to you in respect of the hire charges. They will not expect payment until such time as your claim against the other driver has been concluded. In reality they will wait and recover the cost of the hire from the other side’s insurers. Clients will only be liable to pay for the hire if the circumstances of the accident have not been accurately explained to us so that we are unable, through the client’s own fault, to recover the cost from the other side. This has never happened so far. VA aim to be transparent in their dealings with clients and therefore if you require any specific information about their involvement in your case then please do not hesitate to contact them. VA is based at Unit B4, Garth Industrial Estate, Taffs Well, Cardiff CF15 7YF. Tel – 02920 814444 (9.00 to 5.00). After hours Tel – 07800 675189 (24 Hours).
In acting on your behalf in pursuing a claim arising out of the accident, Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd aim to achieve the highest possible levels of service; we are accredited with Lexcel which is the quality standard mark given by the Law Society in recognition of our high service standards. In particular we aim to ensure that:
(i) All requests for returned telephone calls are dealt with on the same day or as soon as possible thereafter (as may be agreed or requested); (ii) Your letters have a substantive reply within seven working days; (iii) We will inform you of any material developments by post as soon as possible. You should normally hear from us approximately every three to four weeks; (iv) We will always act in your best interests, subject to any duty we have to the court; (v) We will explain to you the benefits and risks of taking legal action; (vi) We will give you the best independent advice possible about whether to accept any offers to settle your claim; (vii) Should you need to see one of us personally then we can make a mutually convenient appointment at our offices. (viii) Should you not be able to attend our offices or are unable to attend then we can arrange to see you at your home. (ix) If you would prefer to see one of us in an office environment and are suffering with a disability then we can arrange to see you at a neighbouring office which is has disabled access and disabled facilities.
(x) We will give you the best information possible about the likely costs of your claim for compensation.
The service that we provide
With one phone call, we make a decision as to whether or not we can help you. We will do this if in our opinion you have a “no fault” claim – one in which you are not to blame for the accident. We will take over all the hassle of dealing with the consequences of an accident; liaising with your insurance company, providing you with replacement transport, organising your repairs and helping you claim compensation for any injury or losses you may have suffered. If you suffered injury as a result of the accident you are legally entitled to claim compensation. You may have suffered whiplash, or a more serious injury. We will ensure you receive the compensation you are due, and what’s more nothing will be deducted from any money you receive to cover legal costs. You will receive 100% of the compensation awarded to you.
The firm has achieved the Lexcel quality standard issued by the Law Society. As a result of this we are, or may become subject to periodic checks by outside assessors. This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent for inspection to occur. All inspections are, of course, conducted in confidence. If you prefer to withhold consent work on your file will not be affected in any way. Since very few of our clients do object to this I propose to assume that we do have your consent unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume that, unless you indicate otherwise, your consent on this occasion will extend to all future matters that we conduct on your behalf. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can explain this further, or if you would like me to mark your file as not to be inspected. If you would prefer to withhold consent please put a line through this section in this information and return it to me.
During the conduct of your matter there may be occasions where we are requested to advance payments on your behalf to third parties. As part of our service to our clients we may make such payments from our own resources when requested to do so. Any advance payments are made by way of an advance of your damages and must be repaid to us prior to the conclusion of the case. We will not make any charge for interest on any advances made during the conduct of a matter and in all cases will attempt to recover the full amount of any payment from the fault party. For the purposes of clarification any such advances are not personal loans but are advances made by Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd. If for any reason the full amount of any money advanced to you or paid on your behalf cannot be recovered from the fault party then we reserve the right to seek reimbursement from you.
If your vehicle is damaged or destroyed
We will arrange for an engineer to inspect your vehicle and, if it is driveable, we will organise a suitable repairer and repair date with you. You will then be asked to take your vehicle to the agreed garage and we will organise a suitable replacement vehicle while yours is being repaired. VA will provide you with a vehicle and when they are unable to supply an appropriate vehicle they will make arrangements to cross hire a suitable vehicle for you. If your car is written-off we will try to ensure that you receive the best possible price for your vehicle and will arrange to dispose of any salvage on your behalf. Where you have been provided with a replacement vehicle you will be able to keep this for 5 working days following receipt of our cheque to give you time to clear the cheque and find an alternative vehicle.
Wherever possible, you will be given replacement transport of a similar standard to your own, e.g. people carrier, motorbike, estate car, prestige car etc. You’ll need to show you have a need for a similar standard vehicle, e.g. you may need a people carrier to transport children to and from school, or a prestige car because of your status at work.
You should notify your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident as it will be a condition of your motor insurance to do so. They will need to know for information purposes only. You do not need to make a claim on your own insurance (unless we advise you to). We direct your claim entirely against the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident – we will not contact your insurance company unless you ask us to do so.
Recovery agents, storage charges, replacement cars
If your car has been seriously damaged in an accident and it has been removed from the roadside by a recovery operator, it will probably now be in storage at their yard. Whether the recovery operator was called out by yourself or by the police you will have incurred a charge for your vehicle being moved. If your car is now in the recovery operator’s yard, you will also be incurring a daily storage charge (around £20.00 per day, plus VAT).
The bills for recovery, storage or any replacement vehicle we provide or repairs we organise and pay for, are claimed against the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident on your behalf.
If you have comprehensive insurance, your insurance policy will cover these costs, provided you notify them immediately of the accident. They can arrange for your car to be inspected by an engineer and then removed from storage, either to a body-shop for repair, or scrapped if it is a write-off.
If you have third party insurance (or if you do not wish to claim on your comprehensive insurance policy) we will pay these charges on your behalf and reclaim them as part of your compensation claim. Insurance companies will only usually pay out a maximum of 21 days storage, which is regarded as long enough for you to have got your car out of storage. We are confident that we will be able to recover the full amount from the other driver’s party insurers.
We do not ask you to pay anything to us for providing these services and we do not make any deductions from your compensation. However, if a car is provided to you on hire and we later pay you the pre-accident value of your own car because it has been written off, you will need to arrange to take the hire car back to the car hire company as soon as possible. There may be additional costs if there is unnecessary delay which we may not be able to recover from the other side. If this occurs we will need to be reimbursed by you for the additional amount incurred because of the delay.
How do I protect my no claims discount?
If you decide to claim on your car insurance policy your no claims discount is likely to be affected. If you have comprehensive insurance, and you don’t want to claim on your policy and pay the excess, you don’t have to. We will claim against the other driver’s insurance.
Will my accident claim go to Court?
The majority of road traffic accident claims are resolved by agreement without going to Court. It is unlikely that your claim will be taken to Court as the law encourages both parties to reach agreement.
Compensation following a no fault accident
If you have been injured in the accident we will help you make a compensation claim for the any of the following: • Pain, suffering and loss of amenity • Loss of earnings/overtime • The cost of home care • Damage to personal effects • Cost of medication/prescriptions/private medical treatment
• Miscellaneous expenses
Compensation claim procedure
• Once you confirm instructions for us to act, we will start work on organising everything needed to make a claim against the person who caused the accident • Your claim will be dealt with by an experienced claims handler who will make themselves known to you at the commencement of the claim and whose role is to ensure you receive the best possible compensation award • A ‘Letter of Claim’ will be sent to the other driver’s insurance company, giving notice that you intend to pursue a claim for personal injury compensation against them • Witness statements, police reports and other information will be gathered together to support your claim where required • Arrangements will be made for you to see an independent medical expert who will prepare a report on how the injury has affected your life and any ongoing/long term symptoms • A ‘Schedule of Losses’ will be put together which details all the financial losses that you are making a claim for. It is important that you keep details of any out of pocket expenses that you have incurred together with receipts where available so that we can prepare an accurate schedule
• The ‘Schedule of Losses’ will be sent to the third party’s insurance company, with a request for the claim to be settled
We find that in most cases a properly presented and fairly calculated claim leads to a reasonable offer from insurers. If the initial offer is not acceptable there will be a need for negotiation. On occasion, if agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to start court proceedings to exert further pressure. Only very rarely is it necessary to go as far as a trial.
The role of a medical expert in an accident claim
If you have been injured in an accident you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, via your GP or the A&E department of your nearest hospital. Injuries that may not always be apparent at the time of the accident can develop over the following hours and days. This is especially the case with whiplash injury – a common injury in a road traffic accident. You can still claim for personal injury compensation even if you have not been referred to a medical expert (that is a specialist or consultant), but it is always helpful to have a written record of your injury with the doctor who has been treating you. As well as ensuring you get the best possible treatment for your injuries, it will help your personal injury claim if there are medical records of your injuries following the accident.
In practice we will always arrange for you to see an independent medical expert, approximately 2- 3 months after the accident. We allow this time to elapse so that the injuries have had sufficient time to settle down and the symptoms to develop so that an accurate prognosis can be made. We will ask for a medical report as to the extent of your injuries, your recovery and any on-going or long term symptoms you may have.
The report will provide independent evidence to support your claim and to help us put the correct value on your personal injury compensation. We suggest that you keep a daily personal injury diary as to your symptoms and the difficulties you experience, which you should take with you to any appointments you have with the medical expert.
Who is dealing with my case and how long does it take?
Your case will be supervised by Alan Curtis and you will be told who your personal case handler is to be upon our receipt of your signed instructions. If Alan Curtis and the case handler are unavailable Simon Jenkins or Jonathan Cooper will be pleased to assist you. As a general rule low impact claims involving whiplash injuries take approximately 6 to 9 months to complete. The more serious the injury the longer it takes due the amount of medical information required, perhaps from different specialists. There is also the possibility that successive updated medical reports may be required for serious injuries as you progress towards recovery and the long term consequences can be more accurately assessed. This could mean a claim going on for more than 18 months.
Personal Injury Calculator
At Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd we never forget that you are an individual. We approach every case on an individual basis and assess each on its merits.
Our clients nevertheless often ask us to assess the likely level of compensation that they might be awarded for their specific injury. The following table gives an indication of the level of compensation available for particular injuries. These figures are for compensation for the injury or injuries alone. In addition to compensation for personal injury clients may also be entitled to compensation to cover losses and expenses resulting from the injury, particularly as a result of being unable to work for a time, or in the same kind of employment, or even to work at all. This can significantly increase the total amount of the claim.
This information is provided for general guidance purposes only, and does not amount to professional advice.
|Very severe brain damage||£180,000||£257,750|
|Moderate tinnitus/hearing loss||£9,500||£19,00|
|Total loss of hearing in one ear||£20,000||£29,000|
Damage to teeth
|Loss of one front tooth||£1,400||£2,500|
|Loss/serious damage to several front teeth||£5,600||£7,250|
|Severe injury||In the region of £95,000|
|Minor psychiatric damage||£1,000||£3,750|
|Post Traumatic Stress Disorder||£2,500||£64,250|
Whiplash and travel related anxiety
Whiplash injuries are common in road traffic accidents. The term is widely-used, sometimes too widely. It describes a number of conditions caused by the violent movement of the head in relation to the neck or spine. It usually arises from a sudden forcible backwards and forwards (or forwards and backwards) bending of the neck, for example when very rapid deceleration of a vehicle occurs.
Ladies with their smaller, more delicate necks are generally more susceptible to this injury than men, particularly those who have thicker necks. Symptoms, which do not always appear immediately, may worsen after a day or two. The most frequent complaints are headaches and stiffness in the neck or back of the head and, sometimes, dizziness and nausea.
It is important that medical advice is sought as soon as possible. In general terms for the first 24 hours symptoms can usually be relieved by lying on a bed with one’s head resting on an ice bag wrapped in a towel, for 20 minutes at a time. The head needs to be supported by a pillow as well. A GP should be consulted if standard painkillers such as paracetamol do not bring relief.
Whiplash cannot be detected by scans or x-rays. Unless a fracture or dislocation is also suspected diagnosis will usually be made on the basis of the nature of the accident and a patient’s description of the symptoms.
No single treatment for whiplash is widely accepted among doctors. In some cases a collar will be prescribed. If there is no fracture or dislocation, exercising and pursuit of as normal a routine as possible is encouraged. Indeed there is some evidence that those who wear a collar and rest for several weeks may actually recover more slowly than those who are able to resume a normal routine. Physiotherapy is sometimes necessary. If you and your GP believe that you require physiotherapy we will fund this on your behalf and reclaim the cost from the other driver’s insurers.
In many cases the likelihood of long term after-effects is small with good prospects for a complete recovery. The Judicial Studies Board Guidelines indicate that where a full recovery takes place within about 2 years awards between £2,500 and £4,250 may be appropriate, reducing to between £850 and £2,500 where a full recovery takes place within a year. Sometimes people can suffer from psychological consequences of a road traffic accident. These can be mild such as minor travel anxiety or complex post traumatic stress syndrome. If you believe that you have psychological problems then please notify us immediately as we can arrange private treatment for you and will need to arrange for a medical report from another specialist.
What if there is a dispute over who is to blame?
Most cases are undisputed and there is little complication. However, if there is a dispute, or where agreement cannot be reached as to the value of your compensation, it may be necessary to issue Court proceedings. We have taken on your case on the basis that it is a no fault claim. This means a claim where we are able to recover all of your costs from someone else. Any car hire or replacement car costs in those circumstances are recovered by us as part of your claim. If circumstances change and the other driver makes a claim against you, then your insurers will need to be notified in order to protect your interests, but we will discuss this with you if and when the situation arises.
What if they do not offer enough?
Normally it is possible to reach agreement, even if the first offer is not enough. If the insurers will not offer an amount we consider is fair we will (after discussing the matter with you and if you agree) issue court proceedings. The other side can at any time, before or after proceedings are started, make a formal kind of offer, called a Part 36 offer (a reference to a particular part of the rules of Court, the Civil Procedure Rules). An offer of this kind must be handled carefully as, if you carry on and the Court awards no more than was offered, the other side can claim costs from you for the period after they made the offer.
We will discuss any Part 36 offer with you carefully, and explain the risks and options. If we decide to proceed in an attempt to beat the offer we will discuss with you and if necessary arrange ATE insurance to cover the risks of any such costs. If you have an existing BTE insurance policy then we will discuss utilising this with you should the need to litigate present itself. We guarantee that if you follow our advice we will ensure that you will never have to pay any third party costs.
Ultimately it is a matter for you to decide whether to accept an offer which we consider too low or to fight on in the hope of getting more. Some clients are happy to accept an early offer to dispose of the matter quickly, as a “bird in the hand”. We will help you make any decision of that kind by advising on the proper level of compensation and the risks.
What if the other driver can’t be traced or isn’t insured?
Should the other driver be untraceable or uninsured, we may still be able to help. In these circumstances it may be possible to pursue a claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) – an organisation which helps people involved in accidents with uninsured or untraceable drivers. The MIB handle cases in the same way that an insurance company would for an insured driver. You need to be aware however that they deduct a £300 excess payment in respect of any property damage. If you have fully comprehensive insurance and it turns out that the other driver is uninsured we may advise you to claim the value of your vehicle from your own insurance company. Furthermore, should you wish for us to continue to act for you under these circumstances then we will need to cancel the conditional fee agreement and send you a contingency fee agreement. This means that we will deduct up to a maximum of 25% of your damages to reflect any shortfall in costs that we incur.
What if I change my mind?
If we arrange a hire car on your behalf, or pay out for the pre-accident value of your car, storage costs and/or recovery charges, it is on the basis that we are instructed by you to pursue your claim for compensation. Should you decide to stop instructing us, either to instruct a new solicitor or because you want to abandon the claim, then the payments we have made to you or on your behalf must be repaid to us by you immediately. We also reserve the right to claim from you the legal costs that we have incurred to date. This is because we have taken on the claim on the basis that we will be able to recover our costs from the other side, but we cannot do that if you change your mind and we are not able to bring your claim to a satisfactory conclusion.
Please see also the section on “Termination” later in this document.
CHARGES & FUNDING OPTIONS
With Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd there are no nasty surprises.
Normally a person pursuing a claim is responsible for his or her own legal costs and seeks to recover them from the other party at the end of the case if he or she wins. If the claim is not successful, the client is responsible for his or her own costs and also for the other side’s costs. MOST CASES DO NOT GO TO COURT AND ARE RESOLVED BY AGREEMENT, EITHER WITHOUT PROCEEDINGS BEING ISSUED AT ALL OR BEFORE THE CASE REACHES TRIAL. If it is necessary to go to court we will ensure that you have insurance, called After the Event (ATE) insurance, to protect you from having personally to pay any costs to the other side. At present we propose to deal with your case under a Conditional Fee Agreement which is not backed by an ATE insurance policy because we do not think it is necessary. Should circumstances change and we consider that you do need insurance we will advise you further at that stage.
Other Funding Options
TRADE UNION FUNDING
You may be a member of a trade union, which assists its members in funding litigation. If you are a member of a trade union, provided your union is satisfied with the prospect of success, it should agree to fund your claim for you subject to the terms of your membership. If you are a member of a trade union, and are uncertain as to whether or not your union will fund your claim, then please discuss this with us.
BEFORE THE EVENT LEGAL EXPENSE INSURANCE (BTE)
You may already have legal expense insurance. This could either be provided by a dedicated policy or be incorporated into another policy that you have purchased, for example as part of your home and contents insurance or motor policy. If you have legal expense insurance already you have a right to instruct a solicitor of your choice if court proceedings are commenced, many BTE insurance companies are now prepared to allow you to choose your own solicitor even if court proceedings are not necessary. Others still insist on you being represented by solicitors they nominate.
Calculations of Charges
Despite the fact that we are dealing with this matter on a conditional fee agreement (and we will not be asking you to pay our costs unless you change you mind and stop instructing us, see above) we have to tell you how our fees are calculated.
Our fees are calculated for each hour engaged on your matter. Routine letters and telephone calls will be charged as units of one tenth of an hour. Other, non-routine, letters and telephone calls will be charged on a time basis. The hourly rates are as follows:
• Solicitors with over eight years’ litigation experience after qualification or caseworkers of similar experience (Cat A) – £198.00 • Other solicitors, legal executives with more than 4 years’ experience (Cat B) – £174.00 • Other qualified solicitors or legal executives (Cat C) – £144..00
• Trainee solicitors and other staff of equivalent experience (Cat D) – £109.00
We will notify you of any revised rates in writing if they change. All our charges are subject to VAT. You are responsible for any fees which we have to pay to others including Court fees and Barristers’ fees. Again we will underwrite and if necessary pay these fees on your behalf so you will not be asked to pay these costs (except if you change your mind in the circumstances we have already described).
Road Traffic Accidents – fixed costs
As we have explained, the amount and calculation of our costs is mainly a matter for the other side’s insurers, who we expect will be paying them, but we still have to explain to you what our costs will be. There are two cost schemes that may apply if both parties comply with the protocol for low value claims ie claims where damages are less than £10,000. The majority of cases after the 30th April 2010 will attract fixed costs which are split into three stages. For stage one which involves establishing liability the costs are £400, for stage 2 which involves negotiations and settlement the costs are £800 and for stage 3 which is where settlement cannot be agreed and the claim is escalated to Court the costs are £250 for the legal representative and £250 for the advocate. In addition if the claimant is a child a fee of £150 is claimable for advice in preparation for an infant settlement hearing. In addition a success fee of 12.5% of the costs payable under stages 1,2 and 3 will be claimed plus vat.
If the claim falls out of the protocol for low value RTA claims then the other side’s insurance company will pay us basic costs of £800 plus a sum equivalent to 20% of the compensation up to £5,000, and 15% of the compensation between £5,000 and £10,000. These costs are fixed by the Civil Procedure Rules (rules of Court). These charges are also subject to VAT. Although you will see that there are references to percentages of the compensation this is just a convenient way of working out what the correct costs should be. The amount of your compensation is not affected. You will receive 100% of your compensation. These costs will be recovered from your opponents and will not affect the compensation you receive (except if you change your mind about pursuing your claim as we have already explained).
The Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) provides for a success fee as a percentage of our basic costs. The percentage set out in the agreement reflects the following: (a) the fact that if you lose, we will not earn anything; (b) our assessment of the risks of your case; (c) any other appropriate matters (such as special factors relating to your particular claim, if any); (d) the fact that if you win we will not be paid our basic charges until the end of the claim; (e) our arrangements about paying the disbursements and other costs (that is the money that we have paid or will pay out to you or on your behalf).
What do I pay if I win?
Our legal costs are your responsibility but we will be claiming all of your costs from your opponent. Only if you have requested that we pay any money to you as an advance towards your compensation will this be deducted from your compensation when we receive it. You will receive 100% of your compensation, either in the form of such an advance (for example any payment we make for you for the cost of car hire) or at the end of the case.
The amount of our costs is not limited by the amount of damages. We can claim from your opponent all our basic costs, success fee and any ATE insurance premium that we may take out to protect your interests. You will of course be notified before any such policy is taken out. At present this seems unnecessary.
What do I pay if I lose?
If we issue proceedings and you lose then you will be liable to pay your opponent’s costs, but you do not need to worry about this as we will ensure that you are protected by a suitable insurance policy if this is likely to happen. If you lose you do not have to pay us anything towards our own costs.
Payment for a Barrister
The fees of a barrister, or of any other agent acting on our behalf, form part of our basic costs. We shall discuss with you the identity of any barrister we propose to instruct.
Payments to Third Parties
The following is not an exhaustive list, but at this stage we estimate that the payments we will have to make on your behalf in running the case will be:
Medical notes – £50.00; Consultant’s fee – £400.00; Engineer’s Fee – £75.00
Some providers, such as medical agencies and after the event insurers, will pay us a fee for instructing them. Whilst these fees rarely exceed £200.00, as they cover the fees for the work we carry out for the providers in respect of the claim in respect of which we instruct them, these fees enable us to provide clients with a ‘no win no fee service’. Accordingly, although you would otherwise be entitled to any fees paid by these providers, unless you instruct us otherwise, we will retain these fees.
These costs will be recovered from the opponents and will not affect the damages you receive (subject to the same exception we have explained).
How long do I have to claim?
Under the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980 personal injury proceedings must be issued within 3 years from the date of the accident or the claim will be statute barred. This means that you will not be able to proceed with your claim. It is therefore important that you return the signed documentation to us as soon as possible if you wish to instruct our firm to proceed with your case.
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time. Similarly, we can end the agreement if you reject our advice or refuse to co-operate with us. In either of those events you will be responsible for our costs for all the work we have done to that point.
Because we are working on a CFA – a “no win no fee” agreement, we can end this agreement if we decide you are no longer likely to win, because of new information or a reappraisal of your prospects of success. In these circumstances you will not be obliged to pay our legal costs. We can end this agreement if you do not accept our advice as to how much the case is worth. In these circumstances you may instruct another solicitor to carry on your case and we will claim our costs at the conclusion of the case in accordance with our rates stated above. If you die this agreement automatically ends but we will be entitled to claim our basic costs from your estate up to the time of your death. If your personal representatives wish to continue with your claim for compensation for the benefit of your estate, we may offer them a new conditional fee agreement, as long as they agree to pay the success fee and our basic costs from the beginning of this agreement with you.
In any circumstance in which you become liable to pay our costs (see also “What if I change my mind?”) and you do not agree with the amount or calculation of our costs you have the right to have them assessed by the Court. Should you become liable to pay our costs we are entitled to retain your file of papers until payment has been made. We will give you further information about this if it becomes relevant. Any documents we have in relation to your case will be destroyed after 6 years from its conclusion.
Under Anti Money laundering legislation we have a duty to report any suspicions of fraudulent claims to the relevant authorities without informing you that we have made such a report. In addition we do not receive cash above the sum of £500 and we do not receive money from, nor pay money to unconnected third parties.
It is vital that we can contact you at all times until your case is settled. Please inform us in writing of any change of address or telephone number, as failure to do so could delay and prejudice your claim. Please tell us at once of any other Court proceedings you are aware of and forward copies of any documents you may have received straight away. We need you to give us any information we ask for promptly and we cannot deal with any other person on your behalf without your written permission in advance.
Please also let us know if you are in receipt of any welfare benefits as any compensation you receive can affect your entitlement. We do not advise on welfare benefits but should you require assistance then please let us know so that we can refer you to an approved benefits adviser. Please be aware that in the event that your personal injury claim is successful, any compensation you receive may impact upon your entitlement to receive social security benefits. It may therefore be in your interest to have any compensation awarded to you paid into a Personal Injury Trust. This is a trust fund set up out of money paid because of a personal injury, the value of which is ignored for benefit purposes. We will discuss this in greater detail nearer settlement of your claim if you request.
Once you have given us any information, should changes occur and that information becomes out of date, please inform us in writing. Once we are instructed you should not contact the other side or their insurers or solicitors, as it could severely prejudice your case. If they write to you give us the letter and do not reply to it.
We will aim to communicate with you by such method as you request. More often than not this will be in writing, but may be by telephone if it is appropriate. We may virus check disks or e-mails sent to us, and unless you withdraw consent we may communicate with you and with others when appropriate by e-mail or fax. We cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax. The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your particulars may be held on a database operated by us. This firm is registered for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998.
For your information, we may be required by anti-money laundering legislation to report to the appropriate authorities any knowledge or suspicion that funds in issue in the claim (or any funds provided for or on behalf of a client) derive from the proceeds of crime.
In order that we may provide you with legal services, we need to record and maintain certain factual information on your personal circumstances which we may hold in hard copy and in electronic form.
We may use all information that we hold about you, including sensitive personal information for the purposes of providing our services and maintaining records about you that we must keep by law or under regulatory requirements. We share client information with VA and will pass client information to third parties where we have legal or regulatory obligations to do so. As part of our office security procedures we carry out an electronic identification search on all new clients.
We have achieved accreditation with Lexcel which is a Law Society recommendation to all Solicitors practices. The process of maintaining accreditation involves client file reviews which are conducted by third parties. The file choice is random and may involve your file being reviewed by a third party. If you object to your file being available for any such review then please would you notify us in writing at the commencement of the matter. Any third party to whom we disclose information about you will be under an obligation to keep your information secure and not to use it for any purpose other than that for which it was disclosed. You agree to us disclosing such information to any third party where reasonably necessary.
Finally if you are in any way dissatisfied with the service that you receive from Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd then we want to know about it as we constantly monitor cases to ensure high service levels are maintained. In the event that you wish to comment to a senior member of staff in respect of the service provided please initially contact our Simon Jenkins by telephone. Should you feel it appropriate to write to Mr Jenkins please allow 14 days for a response.
The principal of Alan Curtis Solicitors Ltd, Alan Curtis, will also be advised and given copies of any letter of complaint and is ultimately responsible for the internal complaints procedure. You may seek assistance from the Legal Complaints Service (contact details will be available on request) if you feel that the level of service that you have received from our practice has fallen below the professional standard that is expected.
If you have any complaint about VA you should initially contact Alan Curtis either by telephone or in writing and make him aware of the nature of your complaint. He will answer written complaints within 14 days. VA operates an internal complaints procedure and aims to deal with any complaints quickly and effectively. The company is regulated by the Ministry of Justice in respect of regulated claims management business. The registration number is CRM3056 and you may seek assistance from the Ministry of Justice if you feel that the service that you have received from VA has fallen below the professional standard that is expected.
Please retain this document. By your continuing to instruct us having received this document you agree to its terms. We hope the above information is useful to you but of course if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Non-discrimination with regard to personnel
The second strand of the provisions relating to the prevention of discrimination are concerned with issues regarding personnel within the firm.
As already stated, the firm has adopted the Law Society’s model code in relation to these areas as well as those outlined in section above. The relevant parts of the code are set out below.
The code states:
A. Employees and members of the company
(1) General statements
The firm is committed to providing equal opportunities in employment. This means that all job applicants, employees and partners will receive equal treatment regardless of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, sexual orientation or disability.
It is good business sense for the firm to ensure that its most important resource, its staff, is used in a fair and effective way.
It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals either directly or indirectly in respect of their race, sex or marital status; or to treat a person who has, or has had, a disability ‘less favourably’ without reasonable justification. The Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (both of which have been amended by subsequent legislation) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 are the relevant Acts. Regard must also be had for the Equal Pay Act 1970.
Codes of practice relating to race and sex discrimination have been produced by the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Law Society and have been used as the basis for this policy. There is also a code of practice for the elimination of discrimination in the field of employment against disabled persons or persons who have had a disability, published by the Department for Education and Employment. The firm is committed to implementing these codes.
(3) Forms of discrimination
The following are the kinds of discrimination which are against the firm’s policy:
- Direct discrimination, where a person is less favourably treated because of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, pregnancy, marital status, disability, age or sexual orientation.
- Indirect discrimination, where a requirement or condition which cannot be justified is applied equally to all groups but has a disproportionately adverse effect on one particular group.
- Victimisation, where someone is treated less favourably than others because he or she has taken action against the firm under one of the relevant Acts, whether or not such victimisation is unlawful.
(4) Positive action
Although it is unlawful positively to discriminate in favour of certain groups on the grounds of race or sex, positive action to enable greater representation of under-represented groups is permitted by law.
The firm will take steps to ensure that applications are attracted from both sexes and all races and from people with disabilities, and regardless of sexual orientation, and will ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process.
Promotion within the firm (including to partnership) is made without regard to race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, sexual orientation or disability, age and is based solely on merit.
(7) Monitoring and review
This policy will be monitored periodically by the firm to judge its effectiveness. The firm will also appoint a senior person within it to be responsible for the operation of the policy. In particular, the firm will monitor the ethnic and sexual composition of existing staff and of applicants for jobs (including promotion), and the number of people with disabilities within these groups, and will review its equal opportunities policy in accordance with the results shown by the monitoring. If changes are required, the firm will implement them.
(8) Disciplinary and grievance procedures
Acts of discrimination or harassment on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age or disability by employees or partners of the firm will result in disciplinary action. Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion. The policy applies to all who are employed in the firm and to partners.
The firm will treat seriously and take action when any employee or partner has a grievance as a result of discrimination or harassment on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age or disability.
(10) Maternity policy
The maternity rights available to partners shall be no less favourable than those required by the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 (as amended) for employees. In relation to its dealings with job applicants, employees or partners, the firm will be mindful of the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Equal Pay Act 1970 and subsequent relevant legislation.
Once again, the code must be read in the light of legislative change. Thus, the provisions of those regulations, etc. referred to in section 1.6 above must be taken into account. Also, reference in paragraph (10) of the code should now be to the Employment Act 2000, rather than the 1978 Act.
Non-discrimination with regard to services
All personnel must be aware of prohibitions which exist against discrimination in two areas. The first, dealt with in this section, relates to discrimination in the context of:
- accepting instructions from clients;
- using experts and counsel;
- the provision of services to clients.
The second, in relation to discrimination within the context of personnel matters, is dealt with in section below.
In connection with both aspects, it is the case that all personnel must comply not only with the Law Society’s professional requirements but also with the law of the land. The former can be found in the Society’s publication The Guide to the Professional Conduct of Solicitors 1999, but when using this reference should also be made to the Society’s website, in order to avoid the use of outdated versions (www.guide-on-line.lawsociety.org.uk). The provisions currently consist of three elements, namely,
- the Solicitors’ Anti-Discrimination Rule 1995 (as amended);
- the Solicitors’ Anti-Discrimination Code;
- a model anti-discrimination policy.
With regard to the latter, everyone should be aware that the legislation relating to discrimination generally is developing rapidly. Legislative changes or prospective changes which all should be particularly aware of at the present time are:
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No. 1673), which (amongst other things) extend certain provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to partnerships (as from 1 October 2004).
- The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No. 1660) which brought religion into the field of statutory anti-discrimination law as from 2 December 2003.
- The ‘age strand’ of the European Employment Directive 2000/78/EC, which will be implemented by regulations by the Government by October 2006 at the latest, and which will prevent discrimination in the employment context on the grounds of a person’s age.
(When these changes come into force, references in the model code set out below, and particularly those in paragraph C(4), should be read as including references to them as well as to those provisions currently listed.)
The model code
The firm has determined to adopt the Law Society’s model anti-discrimination policy. (In the event of any alterations to the model code, the firm shall be deemed to have adopted those changes from the time they come into force, and any references in this manual shall be read as references to the code as so altered.) In relation to the issues which are the subject of this section, the relevant provisions of that code are currently as follows:
The firm is generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client, but any refusal to act will not be based upon the race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, creed, disability, age or sexual orientation of the prospective client.
- Barristers should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not, on the grounds of race, colour, age, ethnic or national origins, sex, or sexual orientation, or unfairly or unreasonably on the grounds of disability, avoid briefing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so.
- Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister and to advise appropriately.
- The firm has a duty to discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister of a particular racial group or sex be instructed. The firm will endeavour to persuade the client to modify instructions which appear to be given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act.
- In relation to the instruction of counsel, the firm will be mindful of the provisions of section 26A(3) of the Race Relations Act 1976 as inserted by section 64(2) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and section 35A(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as inserted by section 64(1) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (provisions regarding discrimination in relation to the giving, withholding or acceptance of instructions to a barrister).
D. All dealings
The firm will deal with all persons with the same attention, courtesy and consideration regardless of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, creed, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Compliance with the code
The firm will take any breach of this code extremely seriously. The firm’s staff policies are set out in full in section 5 of this manual. In determining those policies and procedures, the firm’s management has again considered carefully whether they comply with the above provisions, and will also take these into account when examining any changes in such policies and procedures.
Similarly, the risks attaching to any breach of these provisions are extremely serious, and the same comments with regard to compliance with the code above, in relation to the disciplinary position, will apply in the same fashion to these aspects of the prevention of discrimination.
The firm will also comply with the law and the code in relation to its partners or prospective partners. Thus the existing partners will not discriminate, on any of the grounds which are from time to time prohibited, in the arrangements they make for the purpose of determining to whom they should offer a partnership; the terms on which any partnership is offered; or by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering, a partnership to anyone. Nor shall partners discriminate in any way in relation to the provision of benefits to any partner; or in relation to any matter relating to the expulsion of any partner or any detriment to be suffered by him/her. No person who is or who has applied to be a partner shall be subjected to any harassment in relation to the position of partner.
Everyone should be aware that any such breach is a potential major risk to the practice. The firm does not carry insurance against the consequences of any illegal breach, and any claims in this regard are likely to involve the firm in very significant commitments of managerial time. Further, a breach may be a serious professional offence, and liability may attach not only to the individual(s) concerned, but also the owners of the firm. For that reason any breach will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence.
If anyone is concerned that a breach of the code may be occurring, or has a complaint that they have been the victim of a breach, they should immediately report this to the quality manager Alan Curtis or Simon Jenkins.
For its part, the management of the firm has considered all aspects of its operations, as set out in this manual, to ensure their compliance with the code. Any developments of the firm’s strategic and business planning, or changes in this manual, will similarly be examined in order to ensure that no inadvertent breach of the code occurs.