No Win No Fee Lawyers.
No win no fee lawyers offer to run your personal injury claim for you, with the promise that you only have to pay them if you win. But people often ask questions like ‘is no win no fee safe?’ and ‘how much do no win no fee solicitors take?’. And the answer to these questions is – it depends which lawyer you choose.
To put it simply, some no win no fee lawyers, including some very well-known firms, still expect you to pay them if they’re unsuccessful with your case. This is because their no win no fee agreements cover their professional fees but not their costs.
But don’t let that stop you pursuing your claim. If you choose the right no win no fee lawyer, it’s an excellent option that allows you to pursue your personal injury compensation claim without having to pay anything up front, and with peace of mind.
In this guide we explain everything you need to know about no win no fee lawyers, and how to choose the best no win no fee lawyer for your personal injury claim, including:
- How no win no fee lawyers work in Australia, and what they charge
- The hidden fee traps in some no win no fee agreements
- What happens if your case is unsuccessful
What’s a no win no fee lawyer?
All no fee lawyers say you only need to pay them if you win; but they don’t always make it clear who pays their costs if your case is unsuccessful. So it’s important to check the lawyer’s costs agreement to fully understand what’s covered under the no win no fee arrangement.
Of course, no win no fee lawyers generally only take on claims they can win. But they can’t guarantee they’re going to win, so it’s very important to make sure you’re protected if your case is unsuccessful, so you can be confident you’re not going to end up with no compensation and a bill for your lawyer’s costs.
Read on to learn what questions to ask and how to interpret the fine print in no win no fee costs agreements.
How much do no win no fee lawyers take?
Before you choose a no win no fee lawyer, it’s important to understand how they charge for their services, and how much you’ll have to pay if your claim is successful. Here’s a simple explanation of how fees are generally structured in Australia.
A no win no fee lawyer will generally bill you for professional fees, disbursements, and barrister fees. These are explained below:
1. Professional fees
Professional fees are the fees earned by your no win no fee lawyer if they win your case. Personal injury lawyers in NSW are not allowed take a percentage of your compensation payment – this rule prevents them from charging large fees for very little work.
No win no fee lawyers are only allowed to charge you fees for the actual services they provide, through an hourly rate or set fees for each of the services they provide. Your lawyer can, however, put a cap on their fees, so that you know your fees can never exceed a set percentage of your compensation.
If your lawyer doesn’t put a cap on their fees, ask for an estimate before you sign the costs agreement, and ask to be updated with the costs regularly to make sure there are no surprises at the end of your claim.
Disbursements are the costs your lawyer incurs when they run your case and they can make up a large part of your bill. Disbursements can be for services like:
- Medical reports
- Forensic accounting reports
- Other expert reports
- Court fees
Disbursements vary greatly depending on the complexity of your claim, but generally run into the thousands of dollars.
3. Barrister’s fees
If your no win no fee lawyer engages a barrister on your behalf, they will pass on the cost of the barrister to you. Barrister’s fees for personal injury claims are typically in the range of $5,000 to $10,000.
Are no win no fee lawyers safe?
If you choose the right lawyer, no win no fee is an excellent way to pursue your personal injury claim and have the law firm fund your case for you. However, there are fee traps to watch out for – here’s how to spot them.
Fee trap number 1: Payment of costs (disbursements).
This is probably the biggest difference you’ll find between no win no fee lawyers, and it’s definitely one to watch out for. The trap is that some no win no fee lawyers could still hit you with a large bill if your case is unsuccessful.
For example, a law firm might say something like: “If you don’t win, we won’t charge you anything for our work”. What this is likely to mean is they won’t charge you for the work they’ve done, but they’ll still charge you for the costs they’ve incurred (disbursements) and barrister fees – and this can run into many thousands of dollars. So in this case the no win no fee agreement means that if your lawyer doesn’t win, you won’t receive any compensation but you’ll still be hit with a bill to pay.
Needless to say, these no win no fee lawyers should be avoided.
Fee trap number 2: Paying your costs (disbursements) up front.
Some no win no fee personal injury lawyers may not pay all your costs up front. For example, they may not pay for some of the expert medical reports they need as evidence for your case, travel expenses or court fees. It’s best to avoid lawyers who expect you to pay these costs up front out of your own pocket – choose a lawyer who will pay them for you, so you’re not taking on any risk.
Fee trap number 3: Charging interest on your costs (disbursements).
Some no win no fee lawyers will pay the up-front costs and barrister fees for you, but then charge you interest on the costs at the end of your claim. We believe this is unfair to you and we would encourage you to choose a firm that doesn’t charge any interest.
What happens if I lose my case?
This depends on which no win no fee lawyer you choose. Here’s a simple summary:
- If you choose a lawyer who covers all your costs and disbursements, no one pays the lawyer’s fees, and the lawyer pays your costs out of their own pocket.
- If you choose a no win no fee lawyer who only covers your professional fees, then no-one pays your lawyer but you will pay for costs and disbursements.
Do no win no fee lawyers take cases they can’t win?
No win no fee lawyers offer to fund your claim for you because they’re confident they can win. So it makes sense that if they think your case is unlikely to succeed they won’t take it on. However, just because one lawyer won’t take on your case doesn’t mean it’s unwinnable, and it can be worth seeking a second or third opinion. Take, for example, a medical negligence claim. These claims essentially rely on having a medico-legal specialist that’s willing to provide a report showing how a medical professional was negligent and caused harm to the patient. And while one law firm may not have a medico-legal expert willing to do this for your claim, another might.
How do I choose a no win no fee lawyer?
First, look at the lawyer’s costs agreement and ask the lawyer these three questions:
- Will I have to pay for any disbursements up front?
- If you pay for my disbursements, will I have to pay interest on them?
- Will I be charged for disbursements if you don’t win my case?
If the lawyer says yes to any of these questions, then you should avoid them. On the other hand, if the lawyer says no to all three questions then they’re truly confident about winning your case, to the point where they’re willing to pay the up-front costs and take on the risk for you.
Secondly, choose a lawyer who specialises in your claim type and has won claims like yours. Some no win no fee lawyers will take on a range of different claims – like workers compensation claims, car accident claims and public liability claims – but the best no win no fee compensation law firms have teams that specialise in each claim type. The best no win no fee lawyers are also backed by a team of experts who will work together to get you the maximum compensation for your claim.
Thirdly, choose a lawyer who will take time to get to know you personally. A lawyer who wants to meet with you face to face or is always available to talk by phone or video call will find out more about you, your injuries, and the impact your injuries have had on your life. This is the only way a lawyer can really get to know you and claim everything you’re entitled to.
Finally, avoid lawyers who charge by the hour. You need to be able to talk to your lawyer at any time without fear of running up a big bill.
Are there no win no fee personal injury lawyers who specialise in claims like mine?
The best no win no fee personal injury lawyers specialise in one of the following claim types:
No win no fee medical negligence lawyers: Medical negligence claims can be expensive to pursue, as they rely heavily on reports from medico-legal experts to confirm that negligence has occurred. So the vast majority of medical negligence claims are made using no win no fee medical negligence lawyers.
No win no fee car accident lawyers: For CTP claims in NSW, lawyers’ fees are regulated and some of your fees might be paid by the insurer. The best option is to engage a no win no fee car accident lawyer, so that you can pursue your claim without taking any financial risk. The lawyer will recoup whatever legal fees they can from the insurer, and if there are any legal fees left for you to pay, you’ll only need to pay after you receive your compensation.
No win no fee workers compensation lawyers: In NSW, most workers compensation lawyers will apply to the IRO (Independent Review Office) for funding on your behalf, and this may cover all your legal fees. If you’re pursuing legal action (such as a work injury damages claim), and you choose a no win no fee workers compensation lawyer, you’ll only need to pay them if you win your claim.
No win no fee public liability lawyers: If you’re making a public liability claim, it’s important to understand that in most cases you’ll be claiming against an insurer that has lawyers on its side. Engaging the right no win no fee public liability lawyer gives you a no-risk way to pursue your claim.
No win no fee TPD lawyers: If you’re making a TPD claim, it’s a good idea to speak to a no win no fee TPD lawyer before you start. Some lawyers will offer to review your superannuation funds/ TPD policies at no cost to you and determine what you’re eligible to claim, then you can decide if you want to engage the lawyer to assist with your claim, and only pay them after you win.
Can I get a no win no fee personal injury lawyer to represent me for free?
Yes, there are some situations where you can get a personal injury lawyer to take on your claim at no cost to you – so you won’t have to pay any fees even if you win your case.
For example, for NSW CTP claims (claims for motor accident injuries) lawyers’ fees are regulated. Lawyers can’t charge to help you lodge your application for personal injury benefits. But if you’re disputing a CTP insurer’s decision, then for most disputes you can engage a lawyer at no cost to you.
For NSW workers compensation claims, most no win no fee personal injury lawyers will apply to the IRO (Independent Review Office) for funding on your behalf, and this may cover all your legal fees. If you’re pursuing legal action such as a work injury damages claim, then the no win no fee arrangement would apply.
Where can I find a no win no fee lawyer?
Law Partners is Australia’s largest specialist no win no fee personal injury firm, with 20 offices across Sydney/ NSW, Melbourne and Canberra. But you don’t have to travel to an office if you don’t want to – we can start your claim by phone or video call, or we can have one of our lawyers meet you at your home or in hospital.