If you are reading this it is likely that you, or a loved one has suffered a brain injury. This might be a traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused in a road traffic or workplace accident, or as a result of clinical negligence – for example failure to treat a stroke, or anaesthetic error.
You will already have discovered that there is a huge amount of information available online, and that “Dr Google” can give you a very good understanding of the causes and symptoms of brain injury. Sadly, the changes in your own health, or that of your loved one will have also taught you things about brain injury that you never knew, or wanted to know.
If, by any chance you have not started to research brain injury, and are still in the early days of finding out all about it, then I would suggest that you begin with the website for Headway, the brain injury association. That will give you a very thorough and compassionate introduction to the subject, and also give you links for how you can find further support and information in your local area, for example by attending a Headway group.
The first priority for a person with a traumatic brain injury is of course to find excellent medical care and rehabilitation. Sometimes, perhaps unfortunately, the second priority is to find a specialist brain injury solicitor to help bring a compensation claim.
If you start looking, you will find that there are, apparently, lots of solicitors firms who specialise in brain injury cases. I hesitate to sound sceptical about my own profession, but solicitors firms are businesses, and some websites will reflect the type of work that those firms would like to specialise in, rather than the work that they actually do.
A brain injury compensation claim can be an intense and long running process and, depending upon the severity of the injury might give rise to a claim that is worth many millions of pounds. Therefore, choosing the right solicitor is essential. If you get it right, you will have a successful claim, and it is very likely that your solicitor will become a very important part of your support network, a family friend, and a trusted legal advisor for life.
Get it wrong, and your claim might take longer than it otherwise should, you may find that your solicitor is “learning on the job” with no real understanding of the medical issues, and at worse you might lose the claim all together.
With that in mind, here are a few pointers for choosing the right solicitor:
- Does the website show that the firm is a substantial and well-resourced business? Are they serious lawyers who talk about things in a calm and measured way, or is the website overly flashy and commercial.
- Don’t rely on the website alone. Ideally, as with any other type of professional services, or indeed when looking for a good builder you should ask around for personal recommendations and references.
- Does the profile show that he or she is really experienced in complex legal cases, including serious brain injury cases? For example, does the website have lots of pages discussing these issues, and does the firm have a number of solicitors specialising in the work?
- Is the solicitor a member of an accreditation organisation, such as AVMA or APIL?
- Is the solicitor prepared to agree to a free first meeting, so that you can get to know him or her? This is one of the most important things. Solicitors are trained in the law, but understanding brain injury, and the effect that it has on people and their families takes years of experience. In a well-run solicitors’ firm this begins with junior lawyers being supervised by senior lawyers, and that is the sort of service that you should be looking for. Above all, you will need to know that the senior solicitor who is leading your case has dealt with lots of similar claims in the past. After all, how else will they be able to guide you through the process?
- Most claims are now funded by Conditional Fee Agreements – “no win no fee”. The rules on how these work are complex, and can be a little scary for a client. However, a good solicitor should be able to explain how a CFA works without scaring or confusing you. So if the information you receive leaves you uncertain or worried about how much you might have to pay, that is not a good sign, and you should think carefully about whether to go to that solicitor. On costs, as with everything else in the case, a good solicitor should be able to explain things in very clear terms.
- Your solicitor should be someone that you can trust and like. That said, it is a professional relationship, and your solicitor should be able to be friendly whilst at the same time making it very comfortable for there to be “straight talking” between you. After all, your solicitor also has to fight your case, and you will need to know that they are not afraid of straight talk, or indeed tough talk.
- You will probably have already discovered how challenging a brain injury can be, and about the strain that this can put on relationships and finances. A good head injury solicitor will understand all of this, and will be able to provide guidance and support.
- Sometimes a case can start out well, but staff changes in the solicitor’s firm cause things to slow down, or perhaps the case gets passed over to less experienced lawyers. Alternatively, you might find that although your solicitor is very willing, he or she has little real experience in conducting brain injury cases, and is relying very heavily on a Barrister. Tell-tale signs of this might be the solicitor is simply acting as a “post box”; being uncertain about the type of experts to be instructed, and not analysing the expert evidence when it arrives. Also, you should at all times know what is happening on your case, and about what to expect. If, for whatever reason you feel that your solicitor is out of their depth, then your case can very easily be transferred to a specialist solicitor – even when it is being funded by a Conditional Fee Agreement.