‘No fee guarantee’ risky without right lawyer
While the promise of a ‘no-win-no-fee’ guarantee from a personal injury lawyer may be enticing, there is still a significant downside for the injured person if the claim is unsuccessful, says Boland Howe’s Darcy Romaine. “The phrases ‘no fee guarantee,’ or ‘no-win-no-fee,’ or ‘we don’t get paid unless you win’ mean that if your lawyer loses a trial, then you won’t be billed for his or her fees, and maybe even expenses,”
Use caution. No-win-no-fee guarantees should not be misconstrued as having no risk for the injured person. If a case proceeds to trial and the injured person’s claim is unsuccessful, then although the injured person’s lawyer will not charge a fee for having lost a trial, the injured person will typically be responsible for a hefty part of the legal bill amassed by the persons he sued.
If a trial proceeds, it is because that person really believes his or her life has been changed by an accident. Trials are about justice, and competing theories based on evidence; they’re not lotteries without downsides. The value of a no fee guarantee ultimately depends on the lawyer.
For example, if a lawyer has no intention of taking a case to trial and always settles, then the no-win-no-fee guarantee is worthless, as the circumstances that might trigger the guarantee never come to pass. The larger problem with a lawyer who never goes to trial is the insurer knows it too. An insurance company’s offer to settle is based on its prediction of what a judge or jury may award if the case were to go to trial. If the insurance company doesn’t believe the lawyer will take the case to trial, why make an offer reflective of a risk that won’t likely come to pass? Chances are, they won’t.
On the other hand, if a lawyer has a reputation for going to trial and prepares the case on the assumption that it will, then the guarantee becomes of real value.
What does this mean for you? Look beyond the no-fee guarantee and ask questions. Choose a lawyer who has demonstrated sound judgement and skill in the courtroom and can demonstrate a strong trial record.
NOTE: This article was also featured at www.yorkregion.com