"Jack of all trades…Master of none." No solicitor likes to turn away work but there are times when they should hold their hands up and admit that they are out of their depth and don't have the knowledge needed to ensure their client is getting the service they deserve. Dog bite claims is one such area of law. It looks simple enough but actually the legislation is complex and requires a clear understanding. The interpretation of the law is also ever changing. You will often find that the more complex the law the greater number of ways judges will interpret it (often because they don't really understand it themselves) but it means you have to keep abreast of what is happening. There could be key case law which could win or lose your case and if your not abreast of it you'll end up giving your client the wrong advice. Unfortunately as our reputation grows and we are contacted by more and more dog bite victims we are seeing more and more examples of solicitors who have not done the right thing. Rather than suggesting the client sees a specialist dog bite solicitor they have dabbled in law which they didn't understand and ended up giving the wrong advice and more often than not actually abandoning claims where the victim is entitled to compensation. The Legal Expenses Problem: Recently we were contacted by a lady (Mrs T) who had been knocked to the ground by a dog while she was out walking. She had the benefit of legal expenses insurance with her home insurance and so had contacted them who had put her in touch with their panel solicitors. Panel solicitors are best described as the insurer's solicitors of choice a bit like the garage they ask you to take your damaged car to after a crash. The insurers will usually pay them for acting on your behalf. Unfortunately panel solicitors are not chosen because of their expertise but because they have offered to work for the lowest amount. Mrs T spoke to her solicitors who submitted the claim. Liability was denied almost straight away by the defendant and their insurers. Mrs T's solicitors asked a barrister to review the claim and they did saying it had no chance of winning. Because of this advice Mrs T's Legal Expenses Insurers were informed and the decision was taken not to fund her claim any further. It was an economic decision which was taken on what would turn out to be the wrong advice. The solicitors dealing with the claim didn't have the knowledge they needed to challenge the defendant or discuss things properly with the barristers. They just rolled over and gave up. Luckily as we are not on the panels and work on a No Win No Fee basis we make the final decision on whether or not we continue with a claim. The rule of three: Mrs T spoke to three other solicitors before coming to us. All of them told her she had no claim. When she spoke to Slee Blackwell we thought differently. Firstly because we deal with these type of claims all the time we knew that we had recovered compensation for a very similar accident in the past. Secondly we understood the law. The denial of liability made no sense to us but then neither did the advice she had received from her solicitor and barrister. The barrister had quoted the same case law as the defendant as justification for dropping the claim but quite simply had got it wrong! They had completely misunderstood the decision made by the court and the implication that had on Mrs T's case. Thirdly we knew the right people. As dog bite specialists we speak all the time to barristers who specialise in this specific area of law, we all have access to vets and animal behaviour experts who we are always able to speak to and discuss claims. In Mrs T's case we knew one of the barristers actually involved in the case the defendant was relying on and we knew what the decision actually meant. One of our solicitors had even written an article on that very case for a leading Personal Injury journal. We knew that they were wrong and we were right because of the rule of three: 1. Experience 2. Knowledge 3. Expertise Happy Endings: When we took over Mrs T's case we had a lot of work to do in a short period of time but we knew the right people and we got the evidence and help she needed. Liability was denied but we persisted and an offer was made for £25,000 which she accepted. So this was someone who had been told by four different solicitors and a barrister that she had no claim and now she had compensation of £25,000. Perhaps the worrying thing is that though we have concentrated on her here Mrs T's story is actually nothing out of the ordinary. Two more examples from the last few months, Ms M was a professional dog walker who contacted us when her solicitor abandoned her claim following a denial of liability. We reviewed the file and wrote a single letter which secured the admission her solicitors had failed to get in a year of acting for her. L was a seven year old boy attacked in the street. Obtaining an admission of liability from the Defendant insurers after his claim had been abandoned by his previous solicitor took us two emails. We are doing nothing special or indeed nothing that the other firms shouldn't have done, we just know what we're doing and that makes a big difference. If you are looking for a solicitor to advise on a dog bite compensation claim we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking specialist legal advice. If you do want advice then contact our team leader James McNally via email@example.com or phone 0808 1391601.
- Changes in law finally offer some protection
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