Legal aid helps members of the public pay for legal advice, family mediation or representation in court or a tribunal. Legal aid might not cover all the costs of your case. You may have to pay some of the costs upfront or pay back some of the cost if you win money or property from your case.
The Legal Aid scheme is run by the Legal Aid Agency. Those who are eligible for it can also use a free and confidential advice service called Civil Legal Advice. You can find out more about the service via their website, www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice.
Since 2000, it hasn’t been possible to get legal aid for personal injury claims. However, before abolishing it, the government brought in the idea of ‘no win no fee’, formally known as conditional fee agreements.
With no win no fee, anyone can make a personal injury claim regardless of their income – quite simply, you don’t have to pay anything upfront, and you’ll only need to pay your solicitors fee if your case is successful. No win no fee means there’s very little financial risk to making an injury claim, so it’s certainly a worthy replacement for legal aid.
Legal aid is publicly funded and is only available if your case meets strict criteria. For personal injury claims, legal aid is no longer available at all.
For people who are unable to receive legal aid, no win no fee agreements between you and your legal advisor are used instead.
There are two types of no win no fee agreement –
Both work in similar ways and either option means your solicitor only gets paid if you win your case. If you lose the case, your solicitor will not get paid.
To be entitled to legal aid you need to be able to show that your case is eligible, that the problem is serious, and that you can’t afford to pay for legal costs (although your financial situation is not taken into account for cases regarding mental health, children in care, for example).
You might be able to receive legal aid if:
However, legal aid would not be available for the following:
If you enter into a conditional fee agreement (CFA), you’ll receive 100% of the compensation awarded to you if your case is successful, but your solicitor can then claim his or her costs, as well as a pre-arranged ‘success fee’.
The losing party will usually be ordered to pay your solicitor’s costs but the success fee comes out of the compensation you have been awarded. Most solicitors still charge a 25% success fee which is the maximum percentage fee allowed by the Ministry of Justice since the law changed in April 2013.
Given that you’ll have to pay this success fee out of your compensation if you win your case, it is important that you agree how much this fee will amount to before you enter into the agreement and launch your case. These agreements are legally binding so once they are signed, you’ll have to pay the agreed success fee if you win your case.
Under a CFA, if you lose your claim you won’t need to pay your solicitor’s fee. There are some circumstances where you might need to pay your opponent’s costs, but to avoid any financial risk, your solicitor can help you take out an insurance policy known as After The Event (ATE) insurance.
The other type of no win no fee arrangement is a Damages-Based Agreement (DBA) or a “contingency fee arrangement” as they’re also known. If you enter into a DBA and you win your case, your solicitor will be paid by deducting a set percentage of the compensation you get awarded.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.
By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.
If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.