Which? today warned consumers to be careful about ‘no win no fee’ arrangements when making a civil claim in a private dispute.
Despite their name this type of conditional agreement, as they are called, carries costs whether the case is won or lost, according to the Which? essential guide Making a Civil Claim, which is published today.
‘No win no fee’ is the most common way of funding a civil claim, but if the case is lost claimants have to pay costs incurred by the other party – usually met by an ‘after event ‘ insurance policy, which can cost several hundred pounds – and also any expert reports that were commissioned.
If the claimant wins the case the opponent is ordered to pay their costs, such as the solicitor’s success fee, any insurance premium and expert costs, but if the court deems costs to be too high the claimant may have to pay any shortfall.
With these agreements there is also the risk claimants may be advised to accept a lower settlement because the lawyers advising them have a vested interest in ensuring that they get paid and may not want to risk losing the case.
How to make a civil claim
Melanie McDonald, the book’s author, said: ‘While ‘no win no fee’ arrangements can be much cheaper than paying privately for a solicitor, they are certainly not free of charge.
‘Before entering this kind of arrangement you need to be aware that there are hidden costs, and if you think the charges quoted by your solicitor sound high, shop around to see if you can get a better deal.’
Making a Civil Claim is essential reading for anyone who has found themselves in a dispute and who may be facing court or even a trial. As well as larger claims, it covers ‘small claims’ procedure and explains everything from organising your documents and making sure all the available evidence is in place, to finding the right solicitor or barrister for your case.