Relations between lawyers and the families of seriously injured clients are often strained and lacking in trust, research has found. Surveys by two legal services providers found solicitors have doubts about whether families always act in the best interests of their seriously injured relatives during the claims process.
Polling by Exchange Chambers showed that 77% of solicitors have experienced this situation, while the majority have at some point replaced the client’s barrister and case manager during the course of a claim.
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by south east firm Nockolds Solicitors found 81% of case managers polled have experienced a situation where they do not believe solicitors have acted in the best interests of the client. This research also found a majority (69%) have at some point believed family members were not acting in the best interest of the client.
Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers, said dialogue must be kept open to dispel the perception that one or more parties are not properly representing the injured person.
‘Families almost always have the best interests of their injured relative at heart, even if it is not immediately obvious,’ he said. ‘Lawyers and experts sometimes fall into the trap of trying to impose their ideas on to families, which only succeeds in creating tension and conflict.’
Braithwaite said personal injury work should be left in the hands of experts in the field who can manage the rehabilitation and litigation process.
The poll also found a majority (57%) of solicitors say case managers do not have a role to play in the management of the litigation while 30% believe case managers waste money.
But Braithwaite stressed that case managers, usually a specialist nurse or occupational therapist, should be seen as key to a successful outcome for the injured person.
He added: ‘If you appoint a good case manager early, and that person has the ability to get to know the family, gain their trust and confidence, and help to manage the stormy voyage through recovery and rehabilitation, that person will be an invaluable contact point for the solicitor, frequently helping him or her to avoid disturbing and distressing the family.’
The research asked 132 solicitors for the Exchange Chambers poll and 143 case managers in the Nockolds poll.