Showing posts from 2016

If my claim goes to court what do I have to do? What happens and who are all these people?

Civil cases are dealt with by a judge. There is no jury. You will be represented by either a solicitor or barrister and you will normally need to attend court at least an hour before the time of the hearing to go through the case with them. When it's your turn to speak... The judge and both sides will have a bundle of documents relating to the case which will be prepared by your solicitor. Included in these documents will be your witness statement and when you are called to give evidence you will simply be asked by your lawyer to verify that that is your statement. He will then sit down and the defendants have the opportunity to ask questions of you. You will need to answer their questions clearly, making sure you ask them to rephrase or repeat the question  if you don’t understand it. Each witness goes through the same procedure of verifying the statement and then answering questions from the other side.  Once all the witnesses have been heard.... Once all the witne

Which is easier; settling in or out of court?

It's probably easier to settle out of court... It is obviously always easier to settle the case before you get to court. It removes any uncertainty about what the court may decide in your case and avoids you having to go through the stress of appearing in court.  However, sometimes the other side refuse to make any offers of settlement or any offers they do make are so low that you feel you should refuse and go to court. This isn't easy, but it may be necessary for you to get the outcome that you want. Sometimes the only way to get what you deserve is to take the case to court. Your solicitor will advise you on whether the offer is too high or too low based on what the case would be expected to get if you went to court. The ultimate decision is up to you, the client and sometimes a client may want to take an offer even though the advice is that it is too low because they need the money at that particular time. Insurance companies know this so often make relativ

Lawyers in Literature and Film; Jake Brigance

A post by the Office Ninja; all views expressed are entirely her own and not that of the firm. This one covers both literature and film. When John Grisham published his first book, A Time to Kill, in 1988 he was working 60 or 70 hour weeks as a criminal and personal injury lawyer in Mississippi. He was inspired to write his first book after witnessing the testimony of a twelve-year old rape victim and wondering what would have happened if her father had set out to murder her attackers in revenge. He wrote before work and during lunchtimes and, after several rejections, A Time to Kill was published in the USA in 1988 and in the UK a year later. His second book, The Firm, set him on the path to global stardom, being made into a film with Tom Cruise. I'm doing Mitchell McDeere in a future post, but today is about the young protagonist in A Time to Kill. Jake Brigance is a 32 year old lawyer, happily married with a 4 year old daughter and a beautiful old house he is fixi

I'm so disorganised, I don't know where my medical records would be. Can I still make a claim?

Don't worry if you don't know where your records are. Medical records are generally held in the UK by your doctor or by the hospital where you were treated. If they are required for the claim your solicitor will be able to obtain these records for you, so you don't need to have your own copy. You have a legal right to ask for your own medical records, and your solicitor has the ability as your agent to request them on your behalf. Doctors are aware of these circumstances and usually cooperate with your solicitor fully. The Medical Protection Society sets out this position clearly. Other records that may be useful for the claim can also be obtained from other sources. If you are bringing a claim against a previous employer then the National Insurance office in Newcastle will provide a history of your employment with a list of each employer and the tax year that you worked for them. If you want to bring a loss of earnings claim and you’ve lost all your wage slips it

Why You should Write a Will.

Why make a will? Your will tells everyone what should happen to your money, any property you own and all your possessions after your death. Altogether the things you own are called your estate.  If you die without a will, which is called dying intestate , then the state decides how your property is passed on, according to laws set out. You and your family get no say in the matter. Under current laws, an unmarried partner may not inherit anything from a partner after death unless he or she is named in their will, no matter how long they have been together. Leaving a will simplifies the after death process, known as probate, for your family or friends. Leaving them to sort it out without a will can be time consuming and more stressful A will may also reduce the amount of any inheritance tax payable on the estate, if any (inheritance tax only applies to estates above £325,000 for a single person and £650,000 after both members of a married couple have died. A surviv

My child has had an accident. What do I do to claim on their behalf?

Claims for children are generally like any other claim, although there are few significant differences. Firstly, someone has to make the decisions for the child about the case. This is usually one of the parents or the child’s legal guardian and they are appointed as a litigation friend. Secondly, the rules about time limits are different for a child who, assuming the accident happened while they were under 18, has until their 21 st birthday to start court proceedings, no matter how many years have passed since the accident happened. The final difference is that if you reach a settlement on behalf of your child there will normally have to be a short court hearing for a judge to check independently that the settlement is for the right amount. You will find the child normally needs to attend this brief hearing which would last less than 30 minutes. It is the final safeguard for you to be sure that you have got your child the right amount of compensation. Once the claim is se

Lawyers in Literature and Film; Harvey Specter

Ranker at have an on-going list of greatest TV lawyers . It's a live list, so you can keep on going onto the list and voting for your favourite TV lawyer. Topping their list this week is Harvey Specter. Suits as a series started in 2011, with season 6 currently screening on Dave and weekly at for a price, so perhaps the fact that the handsome, witty and ever so debonair Harvey is topping the poll shouldn't be a surprise. TV audiences, especially internet users, are notoriously swayed by whatever is popular at the moment. He has the dab hand in witty comebacks, a bad-ass attitude and unsurprisingly good suits. And many a man wishes he could be Harvey. So, what's his power? Well, he knows people, for the most part. He knows that if he makes an offer, or refuses an offer the other side will do the most obvious thing, usually. He also knows when people are idiosyncratic enough to do the opposite. He knows who he can wind up (Louis Litt,


The dangers of  asbestos exposure  have been known about since the early 20th century and the first set of health and safety regulations to try and deal with the problem dates back to 1931. Despite this, many employers continued to use asbestos well into the 1970s and 1980s. The nature of the health problems caused by the product, taking time to develop and be diagnosed,  mean that deaths from asbestos exposure are  expected to peak in the next few years  even though exposure decreased significantly about 40 years ago. Under UK law a person who is diagnosed with an asbestos related disease has three years from the date that he first became aware of the diagnosis to start court proceedings. If a person dies from asbestos exposure his family have three years starting  from his death or three years from finding out that the cause of death was asbestos exposure, which may only become apparent when the results of the post-mortem known. As with most other industrial diseases

Which other professionals might have to get involved in my case? Do I have to know any of them?

Once you have instructed your solicitor, then work on your case will start. Even the cleverest solicitor can't do it all themselves, so a good lawyer will have contacts with other professionals whose advice and expert evidence will help the court make a decision. The professionals won't be known personally by you, but during the course of your case you will probably meet the experts used. In almost all personal injury cases it is necessary to obtain a medical report. Generally the expert instructed will not be someone who has dealt with you previously, because it is important to obtain an independent review of your injuries. It's highly unlikely that they will need to appear in court on your behalf. Usually their written report will be sufficient, unless the case is worth a lot of money, when the defendants would ask for permission to have you examined by a second expert chosen by them. If there are 2 experts and they disagree they might both be called to Court to give evid

CCTV; Witness for the Prosecution?

The UK is the most CCTV aware state in the world. A British Security Industry Authority report in 2013 claimed that there were 4.9 million CCTV cameras in use in the country. That's 1 camera for every 14 people. Or to put it another way, we have 1% of the world's population and 20% of the world's surveillance cameras. Big Brother may well be watching you. And things aren't any easier since 2013. Just last January the surveillance commissioner, Tony Porter, warned of the increasing use of body worn surveillance equipment as a procedure that risked changing the "psyche of the community" by reducing individuals to a trackable number in a database. Personal injury lawyers have long been used to surveillance of their clients by investigators employed by the insurers to check that the claim is genuine and to arguing that the evidence does or does not show the degree of injury. Private and public CCTV systems add another layer to that evidence. CCTV

Lawyers in Literature and Film; Ally McBeal

There's always a character in your past who influences you for good or ill; when I had my first child and was a stay at home Mum, I loved watching Ally McBeal . There was just something about her sweet, childlike demeanour, or the fact that she spent hours worrying about whether she would ever get a boyfriend/get married/have a child whilst at the same time being a lawyer at a high powered but eccentric firm in Boston. The show was created by David E Kelley, a famous name in legal TV work and the genius behind LA Law, The Practise and Boston Legal as well as Ally McBeal . He was asked to create a show that would keep women aged 18 to 34 on the channel after another show, Melrose Place, had finished. His original brief was to make it about business executives; he changed it to lawyers and...boom... Ally was born. As legal dramas go, Ally stands unique. It had a good cast of characters that were quirky individuals; some of them were downright strange! It had a backstory and pers

How much will my claim cost me?

If you are instructing a solicitor in a personal injury claim you should ensure that your solicitor is acting on a conditional fee agreement (otherwise known as a 'no win no fee' agreement). If you approach a solicitor and they are not prepared to take the case on this basis you should be very careful before proceeding. Make sure you understand why they are not entering into a no win no fee agreement with you. Is it because they think you don't have a good case?  Under a no win no fee agreement you don’t have to pay anything to your solicitor unless you win the case. Some solicitors may, however, ask you to pay for things that they have to pay out for, such as court fees and medical reports. If you win the case your solicitor should be able to recover their basic costs and the things they have paid out for from your opponent. However, many solicitors are also asking clients to pay up to 25% of their damages to the solicitor by way of a success fee. Prior to April 2013 th

Lawyers in Literature; Balthazar in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare knew a lot about life, and often captured the ideal of a thought in a speech, a sentence or sublimely using one word. He also knew a lot about human nature, and the fact that people often don't read the small print. Edward Alcock's Portia and Shylock from circa 1778 In "The Merchant of Venice" a young Venetian, Bassanio, needs a loan and asks his friend, Antonio, for a loan. Antonio is short on cash himself because all his money is tied up in shipping, so until that comes in he can't help. He goes to the local moneylender, Shylock, who doesn't actually like Antonio because of the nasty things he's said and done to him for being Jewish. Shylock agrees to the loan, but has a condition; the loan must be re-paid in 3 months time or he, Shylock, can have a pound weight of flesh off Antonio. Antonio, impatient for the cash, agrees because he knows his ship will come in, and he'll be safe. It doesn't take a fool to see the hole

What stages does a claim go through?

In any case the first stage will be a client/solicitor meeting. This will be a chance for your lawyer to make sure that they  have a clear understanding of what happened, an idea of what damage has been done and a chance to start thinking about what the next step in your claim should be. The next stage is that the solicitor will make contact with the defendant's insurance company, assuming they are insured. This is done either by letter or for more recent claims it can be done through a computer website which has been set up for this purpose. Once the insurance company have details of the claim they will investigate it and then respond within one to four months depending on the type of claim. At this stage they will either admit the claim and agree to pay damages, deny the claim, or admit that they are mainly responsible for the claim but say that it was also partly the client's fault (this is known in the law as contributory negligence) if the claim is admitted then the nex

What should I take to a first meeting with my lawyer?

You will probably need to bring some form of identification as solicitors are required to check that you are who you say you are.  Good forms of identification are; Driving licence photocard, full or provisional Passport, any current and valid passport. Biometric residence permit (UK) Birth certificate Adoption certificate Proof of address may also be needed. You should try to have current (within the past three months) versions of one or two of these; Bank or building society statement Credit card statement Council tax statement You should also take with you any documents that you have relating to the accident such as accident reports, investigation reports, photographs of the scene of the accident etc. If you haven't got a hard copy of any of these, then having a digital version (Jpeg files of photographs are best) or being prepared to email them across would be good. Don't worry if you haven't got any documents relating to the accident; you r s

How much Time does it take me to put in my claim?

What work will I have to do for it or does the solicitor do it all? Putting the claim in involves an initial meeting which will probably last less than an hour. Your solicitor will need to take details of what happened and what the effect has been on you, and also consider what evidence there is to show that it is someone else’s fault. After the initial meeting you will probably not be involved in spending a lot of time on the case, generally your solicitor will get on with things although he will come back to you for instructions on anything that comes in from the other side and on medical evidence etc. At this point you need to make sure that you go through everything thoroughly and understand it. If there are any problems your solicitor should be happy to meet and have a discussion with you to explain it is going on. In almost all personal injury cases you will have to go to see a medical expert appointment which will probably last for less than an hour. Good practice is to always i

Time Limits in Industrial Diseases

The three-year time limit in disease cases is an extremely complex area of law. There are whole books written about the subject. The three-year time limit in a disease case runs from the date that you first know or, according to recent court decisions, should have known or should have found out that you have a disease condition or an illness  caused by your work. Clearly that test would be met if you are told by a doctor at a hospital or someone in your Occupational Health Department at work that you have such a disease and it has been caused by work. Your three years would start effective from that date. However you could still be thought of as having such knowledge and starting the time limitation if you were told that you had a hearing loss at your annual work’s medical even if no cause was stated.  You could even find yourself facing such an argument if you knew that you had a hearing loss or problem with your hands but did nothing about it in terms of seeing your GP or repor