What can I do if a solicitor won't take on my injury claim?Updated: September 30, 2020
There are several reasons why a solicitor might not take on a work injury claim - even if you are technically eligible. This article looks at the practical reasons some solicitors may turn a claim down and what you can do if your claim is initially rejected.
Are you eligible to claim?
Firstly, solicitors will assess whether you technically have a legal claim using standard criteria of limitation, causation and liability:
- Limitation - Your injury must have taken place within the past three years (in most cases)
- Causation - The accident must have directly caused your injury
- Liability - The injury must have been caused by another party which owed you a duty of care (e.g. your employer, etc.)
Your claim may be rejected because you have run out of time, or it is not clear that your work actually caused your injury.
However, even if your claim meets all of the standard criteria, it's still not guaranteed that a solicitor will take on your claim. Different solicitors will also assess your claim according to their own criteria.
One solicitor may reject your claim because it is lower value, or outside their area of expertise, when another law firm would agree to take on your case.
How does a solicitor assess my claim?
When you first speak to a solicitor about your claim, they will take you through a process called 'vetting your claim'.
During the vetting process, the solicitor will work out whether it is worth taking on your claim. The solicitor will assess your claim on the basis of questions like:
- How much is the claim worth? - A solicitor may not be willing to take the risk that a lower-value claim ends up losing them money.
- Is there enough time left? - If your claim is close to the three year limit, there might not be enough time remaining to complete the standard claims process.
- Is the claim likely to be complicated to run? - Some solicitors may lack the time or specialist expertise to handle a claim that deals with complex legal or medical issues.
- Will the claim be expensive to run? - Higher value claims will mean higher fees for a solicitor, but these claims will also usually take longer, meaning it will be longer before the solicitor actually receives their fees.
Solicitors will usually not ask you these questions directly, but they will use the information they collect when speaking to you to check whether your claim passes their criteria.
If your claim fails to meet one or more of their checks, they may reject your case.
Does a solicitor have to accept my case if I have a legal claim?
No, solicitors are not legally required to take on every valid claim.
Although most solicitors will accept most claims most of the time, they are under no obligation to do so. A solicitor may reject your claim simply because they are too busy with other work.
Does the solicitor have to explain why they have rejected my claim?
Yes, when a solicitor tells you they cannot take on your claim, they should explain why. They should also recommend that you seek a second opinion from another firm, even if the reason for rejecting your claim is a fundamental issue, like you are out of time.
Why might a solicitor reject my claim?
The claim is 'low quantum' (low value)
A solicitor may refuse to take on your claim if it is ‘low quantum'. Low quantum is legal jargon for 'low value'.
If you have sustained minor injuries and your claim is worth less than £1000, a solicitor will not usually accept your case.
£1,000 is currently the small claims court limit. This means claims under £1000 must be pursued through the small claims court. In the small claims court, solicitors cannot recover their costs from the defendant. This means the solicitor cannot take on your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis.
In April 2021, the small claims court limit is set to increase from £1000 to £5000 for road traffic accidents and £2,000 for all other personal injury claims. This means that solicitors will then consider claims worth less than £5000 as ‘low quantum'. Compensation amounts for whiplash and soft-tissue injuries will also be reduced.
Financing the claim is too risky
A solicitor will assess the financial risk of taking on your claim.
The solicitor's risk assessment will check the likelihood of winning, the commercial viability of the case and whether the case meets the criteria for the solicitor's insurance policy. A claim may be worth more than the small claims court limit (currently £1000), but still be too risky to take on.
A solicitor may consider lower value claims to not be worth the risk for the months of work required. For example, if a whiplash injury was awarded £2,000, a solicitor may only earn £500 in fees for a case which may require months of paperwork.
A claim for serious injuries may be worth £10,000s or £100,000s, but may still be too risky if the defendant has not accepted liability or the cause of your injuries is unclear. The solicitor could carry out months (or even years) of work only to be paid nothing if the claim is not successful.
The claim is too close to the ‘limitation date'
If there are only a few months left to make the claim before the three-year limit expires, a solicitor may refuse to take on your claim.
Putting a claim together can take up a lot of time and involves significant amounts of work, gathering evidence to support a claim, arranging medical exams and filing formal court documents before the expiry date.
Your solicitor will not want to risk running out of time, if, for example, a witness statement or medical report is delayed.
Even if the other side accepts liability, negotiating compensation can take time, as further medical exams or expert witnesses may be required to establish the severity of your injury.
Other reasons your claim may be refused
You may find that there are other reasons why a solicitor may not take on your claim. Some of these may be more valid than others, and some firms can be quite 'picky'.
For example, if your injury took place in a supermarket, a solicitor might be happy to take on your claim. However, if the same injury took place in a public place managed by a local authority, they may well refuse. What's the difference?
- The solicitor may be inexperienced in taking on local authorities
- A local authority claim may be considered too much work
- The firm may not be able to bankroll a lengthy case against a local authority
- The firm may have a poorer track record with cases like this and as a result, may not be able to obtain appropriate insurance.
Likelihood of winning
If a solicitor is working on a No Win, No Fee basis, they will want to ensure that they have a strong chance of winning the case. Most solicitors are likely to want to have more than a 50% chance of winning and will assess this probability using a complex flowchart.
If the defendant has already admitted liability then a solicitor will usually be likely to take on your claim.
However, if your claim has a lower chance of success, a solicitor may still take on your case, especially if the value of the case is high.
If you are funding your own case, then a solicitor is more likely to take it on no matter what the chance of success.
No win, no fee
Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) - or ‘No Win, No Fee' agreements - are underwritten by insurance protection called After The Event (ATE) insurance.
ATE insurance covers the legal expenses and costs involved in litigation. The claimant takes out this policy, which is deducted from the compensation award if the claim is successful.
However, if a solicitor keeps taking on No Win, No Fee cases and losing, it will become very difficult for them to secure ATE insurance for future cases - which could put them out of business. It's similar to losing your 'no claims bonus' on your car insurance.
Your solicitor will be very keen to ensure they are likely to win your case before they take it on because they want to stay on good terms with their ATE insurance provider.
A solicitor won't take on my case - what should I do?
Always get a second opinion. If you have been rejected by one firm, don't give up.
Speak to a few firms about your claim, get an idea of the level of compensation you could receive, whether the firm thinks they can win your claim and what fee they will charge if you do. Ask to see a copy of the No Win, No Fee agreement, read the small print and ask any questions before you sign anything.
If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.
Find out more about making a work accident claim:
- Do you qualify?
- How much compensation could you get?
- How does No Win, No Fee work?