Most reputable personal injury law firms will act on your behalf on a no win no fee basis. That means that you do not have to pay your personal injury lawyer anything for their time if you lose your personal injury case.
It is important, however, to read each personal injury law firm’s disclosure notice and costs agreement (or client agreement) to check what other costs might be payable. In some cases, if your claim does not succeed, the personal injury law firm representing you may not require you to pay them for their time but they may require you to reimburse them for any expenses that they have incurred in relation to your claim.
Those expenses might include costs incurred in obtaining medical records, medical reports, medicolegal reports, expert engineer reports and forensic accounting reports, as well as costs incurred in engaging a barrister to act on your behalf (if the barrister has not agreed to act on your behalf on a no win, no fee basis) and costs incurred in paying expert witnesses and other witnesses to attend trial on your behalf. These costs are often referred to as outlays or disbursements and, if you proceed to trial, those costs can be significant (often in excess of $50,000).
You also need to be aware of the possibility that if you lose your personal injury case at trial, or after proceedings have been officially commenced, you may be ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs incurred in having to defend the claim.
This would rarely occur because:
- An experienced personal injury lawyer would not ordinarily take your claim on unless they were confident you were going to win, as not only do they not want you to have to pay the Defendant’s costs, they want to be paid for their time;
- Up to a certain stage, no costs are payable by you in the event that you subsequently withdraw your claim. That is, you are able to commence a claim informally and then proceed right up to the point of a compulsory conference (where around 7 out of 10 claims resolve) without facing the risk of having to pay the Defendant’s costs. It is only after the compulsory conference that you become exposed to the risk that you might have to pay the Defendant’s costs should your claim not succeed;
- Even after court proceedings have been commenced (but before trial), however, claimants are often able to negotiate with the Defendant for each party to walk away and bear their own costs if the claimant promises to discontinue their claim.