The no-win no-fee myth

No-win no-fee solicitors aren’t targeting dentists, they’re defending patients, Steve Wake argues.

‘Have you had an accident in the last three years?’ scream the adverts on TV.

‘Then you could be entitled to compensation’ really…oh I can’t afford a lawyer… ‘use one of our no-win no-fee solicitors’ well sign me up!

Now let me think…what could I sue for…?

Where’s the risk?

We commonly refer to a no-win no-fee agreement as a conditional fee agreement or a CFA.

A CFA is an agreement with a legal representative, which provides for his or her fees and expenses, or any part of them, to be paid only in certain circumstances – usually only if the client wins the case.

This does not make it easier for a person to bring a claim; quite the opposite.

This type of agreement puts all the risk on the solicitors who are working, sometimes for many years, without being paid for the work until a settlement is agreed.

That means that it is vital that any firm of solicitors only accepts cases that have reasonable prospects of success.

Otherwise, the firm will cease to practice.

You have to win cases in order to get paid.

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Frivolous claims do not succeed and so any firm pursuing claims without merit are doomed to failure.

In dental negligence claims there is no loophole being exploited, no clever legal tricks utilised to baffle the defence organisations.

Dentists who are negligent should pay compensation, and when a claim is proved; they do.

Of course, solicitors want to be paid for the work they do.

Who’s the target?

Solicitors need to take on and deal with all type of claims.

We would all like to be exclusively dealing with very complicated legal arguments and points of law that will shape or change the civil law, but that is not sustainable either.

Complicated claims take many years and are often robustly defended.

The fact is that simpler claims settle more quickly and solicitors are paid more quickly too, ensuring there is a cash flow into the business and that the overall business model is sustainable.

Dental Protection accusing lawyers of targeting dental patients – well, obviously.

When they say ‘targeting’ what it means is ‘advertising’.

We advertise our services using traditional media and search engine optimisation.

Guess what – people are searching for ‘dental negligence’ and ‘how to sue my dentist’ and ‘what is periodontal disease’.

So we target these search terms.

This shouldn’t shock anyone, least of all dentists who are probably the most business savvy medical professionals.

It’s all about the patients

Mr Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection says: ‘We know all too well the impact that a claim can have on a dentist, and how the associated media reporting we sometimes see once a claim is settled, risks impacting on the reputation of the practice and the wider profession.’

I understand that Mr Rattan’s job is to stand by his profession and defend it.

However, why be concerned about the lawyers?

I do not think I have read anything by the management of a leading indemnity provider who has said that they are concerned about patients who have periodontal disease that they haven’t been warned about, diagnosed with or had treated appropriately.

There is never a warning that suggests dentists could do something about it or that a dentist who has caused significant pain and suffering should rightly pay compensation.

We work with dentists to help avoid claims, everyone would rather there was no negligence.

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