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Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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We have just come to the end of a significant claim

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We have just come to the end of a significant claim for damages from a car accident. Even though the case was successful, we have now been presented with a substantial bill. As the other side are refusing to cover all of the costs. For the first four years of the seven year case we were of the understanding that if we were successful we would not pay any costs. The solicitor vigorously disputes this and points to a letter of engagement sent to us at the start of the case. When I received the letter I returned with this to the solicitor and indicate that we could not agree to these terms and would not sign the agreement. It was my intensional to find someone else but the solicitor talked me out of it and was dismissive about the terms and on more than one occasion used the phrase "Don't worry, I won't be coming after you for money". He is now emphatic that he would have not proceeded if we had not agreed to the terms even though we know we did not sign the agreement. What is our legal position?
Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.
Did you not sign a CFA? Were costs not assessed at the end of the hearing please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Sorry, I don't know what a CFA is. We were sent a letter of engagement that outlined the terms under which we would be bound and indicated that there might be a shortfall in recovered costs and we would then be liable. As the terms were very open ended I rejected them out of hand and told the solicitor I would look for alternative representation. He persuaded me that signing the agreement was not important and assured me he would not be seeking money from us as liability was not really an issue. Any indication that we would be liable for any costs we're not raised until four years later. At that time he indicated that he had already run up costs of £30,000 so changing solicitors did not look like a great option. Over the next three years he mentioned progressively increasing levels of liability.
When we eventually got to court the solicitor and senior council felt we would be best settling, which we did. He was very reluctant to give any indication of our liability but eventually indicated that a similar case had a shortfall in fees of £16,500. He has subsequently vigorously denied that he stated this figure and says it was closer to £50,000. The other side have fought hard to argue against costs and have eventually agreed to pay of the order of £150,000. Our solicitor has said that he does not expect us to pay all the money due but has still presented us with a bill close to £57,000.
I should note this includes costs for experts that the other side decided were asking for too much. We have tried to argue our corner but he seams to thing we are making up our ignorance of the companies terms and conditions. He has hinted that if we continue to argue he will remove the discount he gave and we will face a bill of around £100, 000. I would note , the victim of the damages is my daughter. I am just doing my best to defend her.
What was the value of your claim awarded?
Did the Court assess costs?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
£500,000. The court did not asses costs.
Was it subject to detailed assessment do you know, the costs?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Costs were based on booked hours from solicitor and invoiced costs from experts. Other side has only agreed to pay a percentage of these. Solicitor has then said that they believe if it went to Taxation (whatever that is) they could recover 75% of costs. Therefore we are being asked to pay difference. Total booked hour costs and expert invoiced costs are of the order of £250k. The real point is that we were of the understanding that we would not be expected to pay fees and the solicitor is insisting that we were. At the time they provided their original terms and conditions I said we could not engage them under these terms and I was planning to find someone with better terms and a lower hourly rate ( he was £220/hr). He made assurances that he would not be coming after us for money and we have taken him at face value. Unfortunately, he refuses to acknowledge that the conversation even took place and says he could not have proceeded without our agreement. He is quite aggressive about this though I suspect he is like this because he does not have our agreement in writing.
I might add my daughter was only 19 when she sustained the injuries and now has a permanent disability which means she cannot work for more than a few hrs at a time. Bearing that in mind her settlement is in my view insufficient for being reduced to part time work for the rest of her life so loosing £57k from her settlement is significant.
Ok. Under your terms you signed, did you agree to pay their fees, or was it a no win no fee basis?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

You really are not reading what I have said. We did NOT SIGN ANYTHING to indicate that we had agreed with the terms. That is the point. We have, however, worked with him for seven years and I am sure he would argue that demonstrates we had agreed even though he has no tangible proof. You wouldn't think the senior partner in a very, very large legal company could be that stupid, would you? I don't want to fight another legal case with him, but I do want to argue down his costs knowing that the law supports my argument.

If you did not sign anything then you are not bound. Although the Solicitor can indeed say by your conduct you are liable for the fees, there is nothing in writing that says you are liable IF there is a shortfall.In any event what you can do is that you have a right to ask for those fees outstanding to be assessed by the Court. This would reduce fees down even further and then there would be an argument as to whether you are liable at all. Given there are no terms signed, this is a breach of the Solicitor rules in any event.So you can ask for them to be assessed. But also you should consider a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. They offer a free, independent service and can examine your complaint at: that does not work then your next step is the Regulator. They can consider any breaches of the rules at: you should have signed terms and conditions saying you are liable for shortfall in fees.Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Ash and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Alex, that is what I suspected. It also probably explains why he is so aggressive about this as he has realised the mistake he has made re the contract. Unfortunately he is a bit of a bully, but that is probably what it takes to get to the position he is in.

Indeed. But you can certainly follow the Ombudsman and SRA route.Is there anything else I can clarify for you today?