Briefly, Mr Proctor, who was a miner, had instructed Raleys to pursue a claim for developing vibration white finger.
In November 2003, Mr Proctor agreed to settle his claim for a little over £11,000, which reflected his claim for personal injury and being handicapped on the open labour market.
However, he later complained that no payment had been made by way of compensation for his loss of services. In simple language, before he had developed vibration white finger, Mr Proctor had done gardening, DIY, decorating, car maintenance and washing his car, but once he developed the disease, he needed help from his wife and son to undertake those tasks.
His complaint was that if Raleys had done their job properly, they would have realised that a claim for loss of services could also have been made and a further £11,000 could have been claimed.
What particularly caught my eye on this case was the fact that Mr Proctor had had no meetings with anyone at Raleys Solicitors. Whilst, in September 2001, the lawyer dealing with his claim noted that there may have been a potential services claim, which followed a medical report indicating that Mr Proctor had difficulties in gardening, this did not trigger any further enquiry, other than a letter being sent to Mr Proctor which asked him to tick a box indicating what type of claim he wanted to pursue.
Mr Proctor ticked a box saying he wanted to pursue a claim for general damages and then following receipt of a further letter, ticked a box saying he wanted to make a claim for being handicapped on the open labour market. Although the letter offered him the opportunity to tick a box to say he wanted to pursue a claim for services, this was not ticked by him.
Finally, in October 2003, when Raleys sent a letter to Mr Proctor notifying him of the offer that had been made for general damages and being handicapped on the open labour market, the letter referred to the possibility of making a services claim, however no claim was ever made.
The matter came before His Honour Judge Gosnell who held that certain aspects of Mr Proctor's claim should have rung alarm bells. For example, the medical assessment carried out on him justified a medical presumption that there were certain tasks that he would need assistance with, and in October 2003, in fairness to the lawyer then dealing with the case, there appeared to be recognition of a possible DIY or gardening claim. This, however, was not followed through by Raleys.
Importantly, the Judge was critical of the system set up by Raleys involving as it did the extensive use of questionnaires and standardised letters with very little personal contact with Mr Proctor. Although this enabled Raleys to deal with a very high number of claims at low cost, the disadvantage of such a system was that it was heavily reliant on clients carefully reading all the correspondence and completing questionnaires accurately. His Honour Judge Gosnell held that it was foreseeable that some clients, particularly some who are not likely to be highly educated, would not fully understand long and detailed letters and might misunderstand whether they had a right to claim or not. The result was that potentially valuable claims might never have been made when they could have been.
The evidence before the Judge suggested that a number of Raleys clients did not fully understand the right to make a services claim until they had actually had a meeting or telephone discussion with a lawyer who had fully explained the subject. In the circumstances, Judgment was given for Mr Proctor for one half of his sum claimed.
As regular readers of my blog will know, one of the main drivers behind Review My Claim was my concern that a lot of cases are being dealt with in precisely the way in which Raleys Solicitors were dealing with them. The pressures on fees brought about by Government changes in legislation and procedural Rules means that in some quarters, the ile m high, do it cheapapproach is seen as the only way in which fat profits can be made. My concern is simply this, that for the Mr Proctors of this world, they are simply not getting the quality of advice or service that they need.
As ever, I am grateful to Bill for sending me the case.I can incidentally highly recommend his website, www.billbraithwaite.com.Back to Blog