The solicitor you choose to take your case can make or break your case. The hard part is determining which solicitor is right for you and your situation. Fortunately, it is possible to vet lawyers by asking the right questions before you agree to do business with them. Here are five questions you should ask before you pick a solicitor.
What Is Your Location and/or Support for Clients?
If you are disabled, it may be difficult to leave your home to visit an attorney. This isn’t a problem if the attorney is willing to visit you in your home. If that’s not an option, then an attorney located close to you becomes a priority. However, you should not assume that the closest personal injury attorney is qualified to handle a medical negligence case.
Ask the solicitors where their main office is located and where you’d be expected to go to meet them, such as when it is necessary to give a deposition. Ask them if they are able to send a solicitor to your home if you’re not able to travel.
What Is Your Experience?
Let’s be honest. You wouldn’t want to be the first patient a surgeon operates on. All professions have a learning curve, and the newest members have the greatest odds of making a mistake. It may be little mistakes with medication or major ones. In any case, you’d look for a doctor with several years of experience, not the doctor straight out of med school eager to get experience.
Experience is also a proxy for competence, since the incompetent tend to be driven out of the profession in a few years. The bad doctors are removed from service, and the bad solicitors go out of business. This is why experience is something you should ask your solicitor about.
Experience makes a difference in the quality of your case, since an experienced solicitor has built up the network of medical experts and other professionals whose testimony can help you win.
There are a number of ways to ask about this before you hire a solicitor. How much experience do you have? What percentage of their work is specific to this area? How many cases like mine have you handled? Don’t get swindled by big numbers, but ask for specific cases similar to yours. Once you know they’ve handled a number of cases, you can ask them about their success rate. The 80% win rate is much more reassuring if they’ve won 80 out of 100 cases than 4 of their first 5.
Ask the solicitor if the law firm specialises in medical negligence cases or has a department dedicated to medical negligence cases. If you’re suing the NHS, for instance, then you should consider working with a solicitor who actually has experience dealing with the NHS and has actually won cases. The NHS has a very different way of dealing with claims than private healthcare providers, and without the proper experience, your solicitor might be ill equipped against them in court.
Another question to ask is “who will do the work?” An experienced partner who exudes charm and has all the right credentials may only be the name on the door; if they’re going to delegate the work to a subordinate who isn’t qualified, you don’t want them taking your case. A supervising attorney is not the same thing as having that attorney work on your case personally.
What Is Your Expertise?
You wouldn’t want to talk to a medical negligence expert when you’re fighting for custody of your child after a divorce. And a family law expert isn’t the right person to take your medical negligence claim. Specialised firms like The Medical Negligence Experts are the best medical negligence solicitors in the UK, and they specialise in medical negligence cases. This means they can handle every case quickly, efficiently and compassionately while having the greatest chance of winning your case.
You can learn about the solicitor’s expertise by asking about the areas of law they focus on. A jack of all trades is a master of none. A bare understanding of medical negligence law means your claims may be denied or you go to court and rack up legal bills when a better qualified expert would have settled the case months ago. External accreditation is a mediocre proxy for expertise. A lawyer could join an organisation like the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel while having only moderate success winning cases and not much experience.
Lawyers with specific expertise with medical negligence cases will usually have access to a wider range of experts that could help them establish your case. They might also be able to help you access sources for financial support or rehabilitation for instance. And you shouldn’t expect that every firm is qualified to handle negligence cases. These aren’t the most common type of case and only a few are truly specialised in that area.
What Is Your Firm’s Size?
There are two ways the size of a law firm can impact the quality of their work. Very large law firms can afford to have a small department dedicated to medical negligence cases; in these firms, you may actually enjoy excellent levels of service and lower costs because the overhead expenses are shared by the entire firm. You can also work with a law firm that specialises in medical negligence claims only. These usually have the best medical negligence solicitors and have a vast experience in a wide variety of cases.
Don’t work with a firm if the manager says their cadre of personal injury attorneys can handle medical negligence cases, too. And ask how large that department or firm is. You don’t want to be one of many medical negligence cases their only medical negligence expert is handling.
How Do We Handle Funding?
Funding is a challenging matter for many people seeking legal services, but the attorney does need to earn money to pay their bills. Ask the solicitor about the funding arrangements they offer. No win no fee funding allows your solicitor to go forward with the case without you having to give them your limited cash. Private funding is an option, though you should be wary about the lowest bidder. The cheapest “package” may not be the best deal, since you’re now having to pay even if they don’t win your case.
If you’re paying for the legal services yourself, you may also end up hiring a solicitor who knows they cannot win your case. This is why you should ask about no win, no fee arrangements even if you’re considering private pay or legal aid; if an attorney who offers no win no fee deals is willing to take your case, you know you have a legitimate one.
All these questions will allow you to narrow down on the perfect solicitor for your case if you do decide to file. Know that clinical malpractice cases are far more complicated than your standard lawsuit, and mistakes due to inexperience or lack of expertise could cost you your case. You want to work with a medical negligence expert in the UK with years of experience and cultivated expertise in the narrow niche you need to maximise your chance of winning.