No Win No Fee: when the law stands up for you

There are unfortunately few ways that wronged people can obtain justice when it is not a criminal matter. But that’s exactly what a conditional fee agreement offers.

Also known as No Win No Fee, these agreements were introduced into law to offer legal assistance to those who might not be able to afford it otherwise.

They have seen some rule changes, so they do not operate on the same basis as when they were first introduced. However, they remain one of the most important facets of our legal system, allowing access to justice for those who need it most.

Financial implications

No Win No Fee’s biggest selling point – and the reason it’s a well-known term – is right there in its name. It tells you straight away that if you don’t win your civil claim, you won’t have to pay any legal fees.

The name also reflects that you won’t have to pay anything upfront for proceeding with a claim.

It means that those who have suffered an injury in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence can pursue legal action without having to worry about any financial risk. This can make it easier to go ahead with a claim.

Areas of law

It’s not just injuries and medical harm cases where No Win No Fee can be used. Employment law is one area where it’s a common way of funding legal action.

In a civil case, where no one is being criminally prosecuted, your solicitor may offer a conditional fee agreement to take on your case. This can be applied in various branches of the law, so find out from your solicitor whether they offer it.

When a conditional fee agreement is not an option, you might find that you have to proceed on a fixed fee basis.

The history

No Win No Fee was first introduced in England and Wales in 1995 for certain court cases, but this was extended to all civil cases – except family law cases – three years later. Then in April 2000, it became law that the losing side in a case could have to pay all costs.

In 2013, the law changed. It no longer became possible to get the losing side to pay all costs. This meant that solicitors could not claim their fees from the other side any longer.

As a result, they began taking success fees from the compensation they won their clients. This is capped at 25%, so claimants will always end up with the majority of their compensation.

The future

In the immediate future, victims of many car accidents will find themselves having to take action themselves. This is because the government is reforming the Civil Liabilities Act – and in so doing, increasing the small claims threshold for road accident claims to £5,000.

A portal will be introduced for claimants to make their own claims as solicitors will no longer be able to recover costs for cases worth less than £5,000.

The reforms have been in the pipeline for over a year, but have been repeatedly postponed. They are now set to come into effect in April 2021, but there has been speculation that this will again be postponed.

Whether it will be or not remains to be seen, but it is currently advisable for potential claimants to begin pursuing legal action as soon as they can in order to benefit from a solicitor’s expertise and guidance.

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