Published: 22 April 2016
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas Ryan Carlisle Thomas
No Win No Fee legal agreements – why you need to be careful
"No Win No Fee" is one of the most recognized advertising slogans used by law firms in Victoria and across Australia.
These types of agreements are common among what are called personal injury law firms, or sometimes called plaintiff law firms, because they offer reassurance that in the event of having to take costly legal action in order to win your case for compensation, you’ll only be expected to pay IF YOU WIN. That is, no win – no fee.
By the way, "plaintiff" is lawyer talk for someone who is suing for damages, so a plaintiff lawyer is someone who represents a plaintiff in court. Although, most personal injury cases are settled before going to court.
The other thing you need to know is that No Win No fee offers only apply to a range of cases in which a claim for financial compensation is being made. So, they apply to matters such as WorkSafe and TAC claims, Total or Permanent Disability claims, claims against a Superannuation fund for injury compensation, asbestos diseases, public or product liability claims, and so on.
But most importantly, you need to know that not all No Win No Fee legal fees are the same. In fact, what most people don’t know, and our own market research bears this out, is that they may still be out of pocket for heavy legal costs even if they don’t win their case.
That’s right. Most No Win No Fee policies only cover legal fees. They EXCLUDE legal costs, such as medical tests, document searches, court fees, administrative costs and so on.
These additional expenses can amount to thousands of dollars.
Now – our No Win Fee or Expenses means exactly that. If your case is unsuccessful you won’t be charged for our legal fees, or any of our expenses. In fact, you won’t be charged for anything. Nothing to pay.
That’s why when we say No Win No Fee, we really mean it.
What should you do to check up on legal fees?
You may be reading this because you’re searching for the right law firm right now.
Obviously we hope you choose us. But if you don’t, that’s fine. Just make sure that you understand the fine print in the legal agreement you are being offered by your law firm of choice.
If you think we are exaggerating this problem, here is just a sample of quotes we’ve taken off the internet sites from a random selection of injury law firms in Victoria offering No Win No Fee agreements.
Real law firm #1
"No win - No fee only applies to our professional fees (the fees we charge for work performed by us). In most cases, disbursements (the out of pocket expenses that we pay to other people) must be paid whether you win or lose."
Real law firm #2
"Under the No Win - No Fee arrangement, if your claim is unsuccessful you may not need to pay any legal fees. If your claim is successful, however, even with the arrangement you may be charged legal fees which may include a 'success fee'"
Real law firm #3
"In most cases we are prepared to run your claim on a no win no fee basis. This means that if you are unsuccessful in obtaining compensation, we will not charge any professional fees."
Do your due diligence. Know what you are getting yourself in for. Take the time to understand the fine print in the fee agreement you are being offered. And ASK QUESTIONS until you are confident.
So remember, not all No Win No Fee fees policies are the same. Be careful.
If you get it wrong, it could cost you a lot of extra money what should be going into your compensation payout.