After an accident, how do you hire legal help?
If you’ve had a bad ‘off’ on the motorbike then normally the last thing you are thinking about is talking to a solicitor – especially if you’ve been injured.
So rule number one is to look after yourself and your heath first. Only when you are mentally ready to consider the issues raised by your accident should you start thinking about issues like compensation for a personal injury or to recover the cost of replacing damaged protective gear.
We’re not going to advise you on whether you should or shouldn’t hire legal help after a crash. What we’ve done here is give you a list of how to go about finding and talking to a solicitor.
Remember, as always, we are not legal experts and we can’t give you legal advice, but we have trawled around to give you as best an idea as we can on how to get help.
Check your insurance policy
Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but the first thing you should do is check your motorcycle policy as you may find you have legal cover. This may have been included automatically as part of your policy, a freebie by your broker or hopefully you’ll have insisted on it as part of a deal you researched yourself.
If you do have legal cover, call your insurance company (or follow the procedure buried in the Terms and Conditions, Schedule or Welcome booklet). Even if it’s a no-fault accident you need to tell your insurance co anyway, if you don’t it could lead to grief later.
They should pretty swiftly put you in touch with a solicitor and bring you up-to-speed on any excess, fees (such as court fees, costs for experts in a court case, travelling costs and so on) and other costs you may be expected to pay.
Likewise, when you talk to the solicitor themselves, double check what costs are and aren’t covered as the solicitor understands it. If there is any ambiguity between your insurance company and the legal team, check it out until the position is completely clear, as legal costs can be very expensive.
When you make the call, make the best use of your time talking to the legal team. Have all of your facts straight as you see them, with as much detail as possible.
The more useful info you can give them at this stage, even if it’s just when filling in forms, the more they can help you in your case.
One last thing, also check your breakdown cover. The AA and RAC especially are really just insurance companies, rather than the friendly roadside patrols we like to think of them as being. You may have legal cover as part of that policy (and when it comes to insurance and breakdown renewal time and the ways you can overpay, make sure that if one of your policies provides legal cover, you don’t need it on the other – select which is the best legal cover and go for that).
If you don’t have legal cover
You have a number of options here.
After the event insurance
Surprisingly, you can get a policy for legal cover after your accident. Crazy, I know. It’s called ‘After the event’ insurance (also known as ATE insurance) and I came across it on the Government’s advice website.
If you don’t have legal cover, choose a solicitor in the same way you would for other legal help – ask friends and family for recommendations, use review sites, find the local firm with a good reputation and so – and ask them to recommend an ATE insurer. They may also take it out on your behalf, but we suspect that is paid for by the commission the ATE insurer may pay to the solicitor for an introduction so make sure you understand the terms of the insurance, who is paying for it and when.
ATE insurance is normally only available to a claimant, not a defendant. And some insurance companies will not insure you if they don’t think you’ll win the case. You need to consider ATE insurance right at the beginning of your claim, as any expenses you incur before taking out the policy may not be covered. Also, the later you leave it into a claim, the more expensive the policy could be.
Claims management companies
Yes, those people who clog up daytime TV ad breaks. When an industry can afford expensive advertising airtime you know someone is paying for it. And it’s us. With our insurance premiums. It’s your call if you want to keep helping these types of businesses making big profits, but we say read carefully. Did you know, for example, that these companies auction off your claims, these claims that could often be the most traumatic and important thing in your life until they are settled to the highest-bidding solicitors. It’s a business and you are the asset. But enough of our ranting, here’s the advice:
• Check the fees that may be payable by you. These can be both for a win and a loss. Some companies work off flat fees, others on a percentage of the win fee. 50% isn’t unheard of… Fancy giving one of these companies £5,000 of your claim that should be going towards your physio fees or to compensate you for the loss of use of a limb?
• Check they actually hire solicitors. Some claims management companies, known as CMC’s in industry jargon, don’t use solicitors and if that is the case you won’t be able to take the claim through the courts and you may receive less compensation.
• Check they are authorised by the Government – in England and Wales they must be regulated and follow a strict set of rules on how they deal with and represent you.
‘No win, no fee’ deals
If you have a fairly solid case then many solicitors will act on the basis that they are pretty much guaranteed to win their fees. It’s a pretty competitive marketplace for solicitors, so if you have the time, you can ring round and get the most competitive deal. Be warned not to go too low, though – some poorer quality solicitors may be so desperate to win any work that they do it for fees that wouldn’t support a professional run firm.
The basis for no win no fee is that you’ll only pay the solicitor’s fee if you win the case. However, there may be other costs that are not included in that fee, such as getting an expert’s opinion, court fees and travelling costs for the solicitor and any retinue.
You will also have to pay for the other side’s legal costs if you lose, including all of those courts costs, witnesses’ costs, experts… the costs can mount up pretty quickly.
One thing we would recommend is to use a solicitor who understands motorcycle related personal injury claims. Very often they are bikers themselves. We’ve compiled a list of them at the bottom of the page. Your other option is to use the personal injury lawyers that are listed with the Law Society.
Make sure you’re sorted:
It all points towards covering yourself in the first place and, as always, that means doing your homework to make sure you have the right level of cover. That might not always be the standard cover you get with your policy – you should also consider buying legal cover separately. In that article, we go through what to cover and provide a list of providers we think offer a pretty good deal, whether that’s because of a low cost or the right kind of cover.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a personal injury or damage to your gear, and it’s not covered by your policy, then bone up on what you need to do, your options and the questions you need to ask, with this handy series of questions and answers, again from the Law Society.
List of solicitors who specialise in motorcycle accident claims:
There are a lot of websites out there with names featuring motorcycle this a biker that. They are normally just ordinary legal firms who are targeting bike accident victims. We’ve looked a bit deeper to see if the people behind the sites are actually bikers themselves or who can show a true understanding of the kinds of accidents and claims we might need to make. Here are our recommended three, in no order of preference (and we’d suggest talking to more than one so you can get the right fit for you.
We know these guys are bikers as we saw them at the last MCN show in Peterborough. In fact, I still use their giveaway neck warmer as a post-ride visor cleaner! The ‘we’re bikers too’ message is very clear on the website and they have a lot of very biker and bike specific advice on there too. A lot of solicitors may claim to understand the bike accident legal landscape, but it’s clear White Dalton actually do.
Set up by a biker and ex-professional racing cyclist, Bikeline claims a 99% success rate with their cases. They’ve got great advice section dealing with most of the questions you are likely to ask.
If you’ve been riding for a while you’ve probably come across Rider Support, or RSS as they often call themselves. Again, this is a bike and biker specific solicitor who claim to have handled over 15,000 claims over the past 30 years. Looking through their site they are lighter on advice than other solicitors, but there are things we like, for example they understand insurers will try and undervalue a bike so they have specialists who will provide the real and reasonable market value of your machine.