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Saturday, 31 March 2012

5 Tips for dealing with lawyers!

It never ceases to alarm and surprise me that many people are still a bit afraid of instructing lawyers. Of course, I have been one for thirty years so I would say that. But believe me; it is not as scary as you might think. Most lawyers I know are human!

They just want to do the best job they can for their clients.

So here are 5 tips to make your experience of instructing a solicitor run smoothly –

  1. Make it clear what outcome you are expecting. It is your case. In many situations this is obvious. ‘I want to buy a house’, is fairly self explanatory. But that might not always be the case. I have acted for victims of medical negligence who are more interested in an explanation or apology than in the amount of any compensation. Others might seek disciplinary action against those at fault. Not all outcomes are necessarily viable. So say what you are looking for. Make sure the solicitor understands this and ask them to clarify it in a letter. So from day one you will be working together towards an agreed goal.
  2. Be clear about what the cost will be. All Solicitors are under a duty to explain this, so never be afraid to ask. In particular you should ask what funding options exist. You should be told anyway but nobody will mind if you want to be sure. Although Legal Aid will shortly disappear from many types of case, it is still available in many cases too. There are many no win no win options which, despite their bad press, can ease many concerns about legal fees.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask how long it will all take. Some matters are quicker than others. A house purchase can be done and dusted in a month or so. A Medical Negligence or Industrial Disease case can take years. So it is best to know that from the start and to set realistic expectations.
  4. Establish the lines of communication. In other words find out who to speak to if you have a concern or simply want an update. There may times when your solicitor is away from the office or tied up in a meeting. They might even be on holiday! But someone should always be available to help. Never be afraid to ask on day one, who that will be. If you call and need to speak to the solicitor who is unavailable ask for a telephone appointment so there is an agreed time when you will receive a call. Or send an email. This is a very quick and safe means of communication and most lawyers these days know how to switch on a computer!
  5. Ask what you can do. You and your lawyers should be a team. You may have documents or, names of witnesses. Any information that you get you should pass on. Never tell yourself it is unimportant. If you think it is significant then it probably is.

So if you have a legal problem, don’t be afraid of the lawyers.

They are often as nervous as you as they want to impress and do a good job.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Think before you tweet!

The student who posted offensive tweets following the collapse of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba has lost his appeal against a 56 day prison sentence –

This emphasises again the need for great care in the use of Social Media. From the comfort of his living room Mr Stacey presumably felt that it was safe to post whatever he liked without considering the impact it would have.

Earlier this year a footballer got into trouble for posting a homophobic tweet –

And there was also the case of the barrister who was disciplined after insulting opponents using twitter.

We live in an age where social media seems to take over our lives. And there have been many benefits. I tweet on a regular basis.

But these cases demonstrate that posting on these sites does not place anybody above or outside of the law. Employees could lose their jobs or employers could find themselves sued simply because they decided to tweet first and think later.

Whenever you post something just stop and think –

Who is going to read this?
What effect will it have on them?
How might it rebound on me?

And then weigh up whether it is really worth it.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Great news for asbestos victims

Asbestos is not a modern discovery. There is mention of a fire proof fibre as far back as the 5th Century BC and possible references to illnesses of the lung from about the same time. But it is fair to say that it was in the 20th Century that its use on an industrial basis really took off. Apparently a snow scene in the Wizard of Oz used white asbestos!

The real tragedy is that it is only now that we are seeing the real cost. Asbestos is known to cause serious lung disease including lung cancer and mesothelioma. The latter is almost always terminal.

There is normally a gap of 30 – 40 years between the exposure to asbestos and the appearance of symptoms of mesothelioma. This presents a logistical nightmare for victims and their advisers. And it was the subject of a major decision of the Supreme Court earlier this week.

This has become known as the ‘trigger litigation’. In essence the insurers for companies who were guilty of negligent exposure of their workers to asbestos were seeking to avoid having to pay compensation. Their argument was that the liability to pay was not theirs because the ‘trigger’ for the insurance liability was not the time of exposure but the start of symptoms which is usually many years later. This was a potential cause of massive injustice. By the time a victim suffers symptoms say 40 years after exposure many companies have long since disappeared. If there was no insurer around to deal with it then there was no compensation.

On 28th March the Supreme Court decided that the ‘trigger’ is the time of inhalation of the asbestos and not the later date.

This is a massive relief to thousands of sufferers. It is tragic that many died before being able to benefit from this decision but at least their families will now be able to claim. This is a significant decision from the Supreme Court who, not for the first time, have decided in favour of those blighted by the asbestos scandal.

If you or a family member have been affected by asbestos EAD Solicitors have a specialist team of lawyers who have pursued successful claims for victims and who will fight for maximum compensation.