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Most of us are familiar with the term No Win, No Fee, but what does it really mean in the context of a professional negligence claim?
Until the 1990's No Win - No Fee was forbidden in English law. However when the Government wanted to save money by abolishing Legal Aid it decided to import the concept from jurisdictions like the United States where No Win - No Fee was firmly entrenched in the legal culture. By encouraging solicitors to undertake litigation work on a No Win - No Fee basis the Government thought that access to justice could be preserved, without the public purse picking up the tab.
The idea took off and in no time the British people have grown accustomed to using lawyers on a No Win - No Fee basis.
Nevertheless, although the concept is now a very familiar there remains a widspread misunderstanding of what No Win - No Fee actually involves.
Does 'No Win - No Fee' mean 'free'?
Perhaps the greatest misconception is the tendancy for people to equate No Win, No Fee with 'free'.
While it is correct that legal services may be provided without charge where a no win, no fee case is lost, those services are not 'free' in the event that the case is successful.
When a no win, no fee case is won the lawyer's fees become payable. In fact not only will the lawyer be entitled to be paid what are known as the 'base costs', but in addition to this a 'success fee' can also be charged. So No Win - No Fee funding in relation to a professioanl negligence claim should not be regarded as a free service.
Does a No Win No Fee lawyer take a slice of my compensation?
The other common misconception is that the lawyer will be paid by receiving a slice of the money that is recovered as a result of the professional negligence claim. Although this type of arrangement does exist (and is called a contingency fee or a damages based agreement) the vast majority of No Win, No Fee arrangements are termed 'conditional fee agreements'.
Under a conditional fee agreement the successful lawyer receives the base costs on the usual hourly rate basis, together with a success fee that is calculated as a percentage, not of the award, but of those base costs. So, for example, if the success fee uplift is 100% and the client recovers £100,000 in damages, with base costs of £10,000 then the success fee will be 100% of £10,000 ie £10,000.
The benefits of No Win - No Fee funding
The huge attraction of No Win, No Fee is that it goes a long way to removing the financial risks of litigation, thereby enabling people to pursue legal disputes who wouldn't otherwise be able to fund an action.
Solicitors are obviously very choosy about the cases they take on under a No Win, No Fee agreement. Such cases generally involve them making a huge investment in terms of time and sometimes money, so they need to be reasonably confident of winning and recovering their fees. However, legal outcomes can never be guranteed and cases will from time to time be lost. When this happens the lawyer will write off the legal fees that have accrued; hence the term, no win - no fee.
Make sure you understand what NWNF means for you
Before entering into any sort of NWNF agreement in a professional negligence claim it's important to speak to the lawyer to make sure you undertand what is involved and importantly what your duties and obligations are under the agreement.
You also need to be aware of your potential liability for the legal costs of your opponent in you lose a legal case. This won't be covered by the nwnf agreement and you will need to discuss with your solicitor whether you should take out insurance to cover that risk.
Its also worth bearing in mind that the rules governing nwnf agreements do vary between different areas of law. The rules for nwnf agreements in personal injury law are for instance different to those that govern professional negligence., so again advice needs to be taken.
Free No Win - No Fee helpline
We firmly believe that the funding of legal costs in a professional negligence case needs to be dealt with transparently at the outset of the case. Claimants can therefore take advantage of our free legal helpline to establish waht method of funding will best suit them and what No Win - No Fee funding will mean for them.
If you are seeking legal representation on a no win no fee basis for your professional negligence claim then contact us now on 0808 139 1595 for a free assessment of your case and an indication whether it is a claim we shall be happy to pursue on a no win no fee basis.