Q. I was involved in a serious accident (not my fault!) six months ago and spent two months in hospital.
I had a below knee amputation in addition to multiple other injuries including a punctured lung, four broken ribs, torn spleen and I lost a testicle.
My bike insurers appointed a solicitor for me who visited me in hospital soon after the accident and pressurised me into signing lots of documents, including a no win, no fee agreement.
I was not really aware of what was going on at the time but felt that if I did not instruct them I would not be able to claim compensation for my injuries.
I have not been at all happy with the service by the solicitor but my complaints have got nowhere.
They told me that I cannot move my case to another lawyer without paying all of their costs first which I cannot afford. I feel trapped.
I feel like I am all alone in trying to deal with prosthetics, I am worried I will not be able to have children and I have not even been told if the person responsible has been prosecuted or if she has admitted blame for the accident.
I have been unable to work since the accident and am facing financial ruin.
What are my rights, what can I claim and how do I get my solicitors to start helping me?
Josh Jacobs, e-mail
A. Firstly can I say how sorry I am to hear about this dreadful accident and your injuries. I am also appalled at the way you have been treated by your solicitors.
You have very serious injuries and are need of an enormous amount of help and support.
It is quite improper that the solicitors bamboozled you into signing documents (presumably what is called a retainer instructing them to act for you).
Bike insurers often have financial relationships with law firms which means that when one of their insured has an accident the details are immediately wired to the panel firm of solicitors who then try to capture the injured party as a client be it at hospital or at home.
In return for the referral of the injury claim from the insurer the law firm pays the insurer often more than £1000.
This could explain why the solicitors were so desperate to sign you up at your hospital bedside – otherwise they would have lost the money as they have to pay the insurer for the referral irrespective of whether the solicitors manage to “convert” the claim.
Your solicitors have also misled you as to your rights. You are entirely free to choose a solicitor of your choice irrespective of what your current solicitors or your insurer says.
Also, moving your claim to the solicitor of your choice (I suggest a motorcycle accident specialist) will not cost you anything and it is wrong of your solicitors to threaten you in this way to keep your business despite providing you with sub-standard service.
The new solicitor provides the old solicitor with an undertaking that he will preserve the old solicitor’s right to claim costs.
The old solicitor’s costs are simply added to the new solicitor’s costs at the end of the claim.
Your new solicitor will be able to help you by use of rehabilitation which is important to ensure that you are given the opportunity to reach your full potential in terms of mobility, confidence and quality of life.
Your solicitor will be able to liaise with the police and CPS as to the status of the prosecution against the other driver.
He or she will also be able to obtain a liability decision from the third party insurer (this should have been provided within three months of them acknowledging receipt of the letter of claim) failing which you can proceed to a liability only trial, dealing with the value of your claim at a later stage when your prognosis is more readily ascertainable.
Assuming liability is likely to be decided in your favour your solicitor should be able to obtain an interim payment of damages to compensate you for the lost income and other financial losses, damaged kit, motorcycle etc over the last six months.
In terms of treatment you are entitled to the costs of private surgery and prosthetics and I would strongly recommend using a company such as Pace Rehabilitation for the prosthetics advice.
You are likely to need expert reports from an expert prosthetist, orthopaedic surgeon, possibly a general surgeon depending on the severity of the spleen damage and also a urologist in relation to the loss of a testicle and the likely impact on your fertility.
In all my cases in which clients have lost one testicle their fertility has not been affected and this is likely to be the case in your situation.
In terms of what you can claim the simple answer is damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity and financial losses (past and future) caused by the accident.
I do not know what your job is but if, for example as a result of the amputation, you are unable to work, then your claim will include future loss of earnings.
The full extent of financial losses that one can claim would take up a lot of column inches but your new lawyer will be able to advise you fully in relation to this specific to your situation.
EM10 CC10 MB10