Landmark case paves way for Brits ripped off by greedy ’no win, no fee’ lawyers

IF you’ve made a claim with a “no win, no fee” firm during the last seven years, you could be owed money by your lawyers – thanks to a landmark case.

Darya Belsner initially won £1,916 after claiming against a car driver who knocked her off her moped.

But the law firm she used took £385 — a much bigger slice than she expected — on top of nearly £2,000 in legal fees which they were paid by the motorist’s insurer.

So Londoner Ms Belsner, 32, hired a different set of lawyers and took her original team, CAM Legal Services, to court.

A High Court judge ruled in her favour — and it means others who were charged unfairly by claims lawyers may be owed money.

Judge Mr Justice Lavender said Darya should have needed to pay only £90 to CAM Legal Services, which had separately pocketed £1,783 in legal fees from the losing side.

So she was owed a refund of £295.

Darya says: “It was pretty much impossible to understand the charges, especially as I was a person who was still in shock over what had happened with the accident.

“No one ever sat me down to explain it all in simple terms.”

The High Court dispute was strongly contested — costing the two sides a combined £87,715 in legal fees while the fee disputed was just £385 — because victory would set a precedent.

Darya’s win now paves the way for millions to cash in.

Am I owed cash?

ANYONE who got compo with a No Win No Fee law firm and feels they did not understand what fees they would pay could have a case.

Legal costs expert Mark Carlisle says: “This ruling will create millions of claims against the No Win, No Fee personal injury legal industry for overcharging.

“For too long, legal firms have been using complicated success fee models that their clients do not understand.”

Now, if firms cannot prove the victim has understood the charges and how much they would receive in compensation, they will have to pay them a refund.

Mr Carlisle says around £2.5billion could be waiting to be claimed by victims, with cases as far back as 2013 eligible.

And from now on, No Win No Fee lawyers should have to make really clear upfront how much you will pay if you win.

Can I claim?

MARK CARLISLE of, which represented Darya at the High Court, says you could be eligible if you:

  • Made a compensation claim after April 1, 2013, having been involved in a car crash, an accident at work, a slip or a trip in a public place;
  • Had a “no win, no fee” agreement;
  • Were not told you could “shop around” for a deal on fees;
  • Were not clearly told your lawyers would take some of your compensation or that the amount they took would relate to how much was paid in costs by the losing side.

How do I claim?

YOU have a few choices on how to complain if you think your lawyer has taken a big slice of your compensation:

  • Complain for free to the Legal Ombudsman.
  • You might not get as much compensation as you could be awarded by a court but you will not have any costs and can do it yourself.
  • You can launch your own case for £55 by issuing an application under the Solicitors Act.
  • You might need to pay a separate court fee of £369 if you take it to court.
  • It might help to get independent advice from a solicitor to improve your chances of winning.
  • You can instruct a law firm to make the claim for you.
  • There is no charge because the firm’s costs are paid by the losing side.
  • But if the case is settled before court, you will have to pay 25 per cent of any refund, plus VAT.

History of No Fee

  • 1995 — No win, no fee, made legal in the UK following a 1990 law change.
  • 2000 — The 1999 Access to Justice Act comes into force, meaning the losing side must pay the extra fees charged by no win, no fee lawyers when these firms win a case.
  • Late 2000s — Repeated reports of claims that management companies cold-call people encouraging them to make claims and overcharge losing parties. It leads to no win, no fee lawyers being branded “ambulance chasers”.
  • 2013 — Concerns about the UK’s growing “compensation culture” lead to law changes. Now the claimant pays a “success fee” of up to 25 per cent of their compensation if they win.
  • 2020 – Landmark High Court case means claimants could get some of the “success fee” they paid refunded if the terms were unclear when they signed up.

Beat the scammers: By Ashley HartHead of Fraud at TSB

YOU may get some visitors knocking on the door tonight – but also watch out for scammers doing their own trick-or- treating online.

They will offer all kinds of treat, including investments with high interest rates, guaranteed dividends and even gold rewards.

Do not automatically trust.

Many of the adverts are placed by criminal gangs, so check the Financial Conduct Authority’s register and contact a company directly to be sure.

The reality is that average losses at the moment are over £12,000 per case.

Purchase scams also offer big treats with nasty tricks.

I have just seen a Tesla for sale – one owner, low mileage, great spec and only £20,000.

The value of that car is nearer £50,000 –  and the deposit that the seller is asking for is money you will never see again.

It is always best to see a car in person, and do your homework – no deal is so good that it is worth rushing for.

Also watch out for the classic refund scam – a text or email from HMRC offering you a tax refund.

These are always tricks and you should never respond or engage.

If you want to check your tax position, call the tax office on 0300 200 3300.

Losses in these cases often run into the tens of thousands.

Cash hack

SMYTHS has a sale on kids’ toys, including Disney, Barbie, Avengers and Lego brands.

A K’Nex mega motor cycle is £12.99, down from £18.99, and a Nerf Strongarm blaster, is £14.99 down from £29.99.

Sale ends November 9.

Bets off

NATWEST has introduced a gambling block feature on debit cards, giving people the option of a 48-hour freeze before they can place a bet.

It stays in place unless the customer chooses to remove it – which also takes 48 hours.

Customers can access the feature via their banking app.

NatWest said it saw a decline in gambling in lockdown but when restrictions were eased, it went back up.

Overall, gambling-related spending is around a third higher (32 per cent) in September 2020 than in 2019.

Cash hack

AMAZON Prime members can get early access to two free Kindle e-books from a selection of nine, normally up to £3.29 each.

Log into your account, choose which ones you want and select “Buy it now for £0.00”.

Offer ends today.

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