Taking legal action or fighting court cases using public funding – commonly known as Legal Aid – can incur legal costs for a claimant if an award for compensation is made or if a claimant recovers or preserves property, such as a home, as a result of their legal action.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the statutory charge in a Legal Aid case is intended to:
a) put legally-aided individuals as far as possible in the same position as successful non legally-aided individuals (who are responsible at the end of their cases to pay their own legal costs if their opponent in the litigation does not, or is unable, to pay them)
b) ensure that legally-aided individuals contribute towards the cost of funding their cases so far as they are able; and
c) deter legally-aided individuals from running up costs unreasonably, by giving them a financial interest in how much money is being spent.
Solicitors have a legal duty to advise clients of the costs involved in their case – including explaining the Statutory Charge and advising a client when it comes into force.
Clients whose solicitor failed to advise them on the Legal Aid Statutory Charge can be left feeling devastated and worried that they may lose their home under the Statutory Charge – or their compensation may be seriously eroded by the Statutory Charge.
Duncan Lewis is one of the UK’s leading Legal Aid solicitors – and a recognised expert in the field of claims, including professional negligence claims.
Duncan Lewis claims experts can assess a case involving a solicitor failing to advise on the Statutory Charge to pinpoint where negligence may have occurred – including cases where a solicitor gave wrong advice on the Statutory Charge, which could constitute a claim for professional negligence.
Changes to regulations covering the Legal Aid Agency were introduced under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 for Legal Aid awarded after 1 April 2103.
Changes to the Statutory Charge apply to Legal Aid granted after 10 December 2012, so a solicitor must ensure a client in receipt of Legal Aid has the correct information about the Statutory Charge and their financial obligations to the LAA for as long as the Legal Aid Certificate is active.
The rules surrounding the Statutory Charge are complex – and there are exemptions.
Solicitors who accept Legal Aid cases may work for a lower fee scale – but the Statutory Charge does not enable a solicitor to “reclaim” the balance of any reduction in fees once the case is settled in a client’s favour, as Legal Aid solicitors are paid by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).
Legal costs are often recovered from the opponent in a case – or an opponent may agree to pay a percentage of the costs in settling a case.
The Statutory Charge is a way of recouping some of the costs spent on a Legal Aid case by the Legal Aid Agency, so that more people can have access to Legal Aid.
It may be easier for claimants to regard Legal Aid as a loan from the Legal Aid Agency or the government – and a solicitor should make sure a client understands that they may have to repay some of the money from compensation or if they gain a property in a civil action funded by Legal Aid.
Clients who suffer financial loss or other loss as a result of a solicitor who is negligent should first make a complaint through the solicitor’s own complaints procedure.
The Legal Ombudsman can also adjudicate in cases where a solicitor is negligent and did not advise on the Legal Aid Statutory Charge but any compensation awarded may be modest.
Clients considering suing a solicitor for wrong advice have six years from the date of the event constituting negligence – or three years from the date they first realised negligence had occurred – in which to make a professional negligence claim.
Duncan Lewis understands that suing a solicitor can be a daunting prospect, especially after a client has learned that a solicitor failed to advise them on the Statutory Charge when they applied for Legal Aid.
Duncan Lewis professional negligence solicitors take a tough stance in making a claim against a negligent solicitor who has let a Legal Aid client down and failed to advise them of the implications of the Statutory Charge – and will press for maximum damages.
Duncan Lewis lawyers offer clients a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) to fund professional negligence claims.
Duncan Lewis also offers a fixed fee to cover the costs of the initial client meeting and case assessment – so our professional negligence clients know from the outset how much they will have to pay.
If a solicitor has provided a negligent service that resulted in loss by failing to advise you of the Legal Aid Statutory Charge, call Duncan Lewis Professional Negligence Solicitors for more information about making a compensation claim on 020 7923 4020.