I recently attended at the home of Margaret Pratt in Brisbane. In the entrance to the home is a photograph of her late husband Alby Pratt being presented with a trophy by Queen Elizabeth II and a horse trained by Alby called Panvale winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick at odd of 100-1.
I have seen this photograph on many occasions over the years that I have been to the Pratt home and thought what a great day it would have been for Alby when Panvale won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1970.
After returning to Mackay and being on the ride-on mower my mind turned to television and the recommendations that we gamble responsibly, and I further kept thinking what was the colour of the Queen’s hat.
For all of my legal career I have been involved in litigation which can be a gamble. There is no second prize money at the end of a Court action. There is the successful party who is normally awarded damages and their costs on either a standard basis or on an indemnity basis.
When an injured party engages a Solicitor to act on their behalf with respect to advancing a claim for damages, the Solicitor is required pursuant to the provisions of the Legal Profession Act 2007 to provide the client with a Cost Agreement which sets out matters including:-
- The work to be performed (obtain medical records, reports and expert opinions as well as statements from witnesses);
- The rate/fee which will be charged for the work to be performed;
- When accounts will be rendered;
- Interest to be charged on unpaid accounts.
There are special provisions in the Legal Profession Act 2007 which relate to Conditional Cost Agreements (no win no fee). Conditional Cost Agreements may contain provisions for:-
- Rates per each 5 or 6 minute unit spent on the work for individuals with a range of titles including Partner/Special Counsel, Senior Solicitor/Associate, Solicitor, Law Clerk, Senior Paralegal and Paralegal (depending on the complexity of what needs to be done any one or more of them will work towards the successful resolution of your claim).
- An uplift fee which the ‘no win no fee’ Lawyer will explain is to cover the risk associated with the litigation. The uplift fee is normally 25% of the total professional fees.
The Legal Profession Act 2007 provides for circumstances in which the Supreme Court or QCAT can set aside a Solicitor’s Cost Agreement. If the Cost Agreement is set aside or if the agreement is not fair or reasonable, the costs recoverable may be limited to the appropriate Court scale or the fair and reasonable value of the legal services provided.
To maximize your return on the litigation you need to have a clear appreciation of the costs that will be charged by the lawyer that you engage. You need to compare the hourly rate to be charged by the individuals who will be conducting your claim and how they compare with charges from other competent lawyers. You need an estimate as to the costs and outlays that you will incur to get to the various stages of the pre-Court proceedings and Court proceedings.
If you are successful and recover your costs on a standard basis which is in accordance with the appropriate Court scale, these costs can range from between 40% and 70% of what you are actually charged depending upon the rates per each 5 or 6 minute unit that you initially agreed to pay.
To reduce the risk with litigation it is vital that statements be obtained from witnesses at an early point following an event where a party is injured whether as a result of a motor vehicle accident and/or a work related event. The evidence of witnesses will enable a competent Lawyer to determine the issue of which driver was negligent and/or whether an employer has been negligent at an early stage.
If you engage a competent lawyer who has experience with litigation, he/she will have knowledge of the law and procedures and not need to meet with teams of other lawyers/paralegals (which will significantly increase your legal costs) to work towards the successful resolution of your claim.
In 1970 when the Queen was photographed presenting her trophy to Alby Pratt at Randwick, she wore a yellow dress, yellow hat and white shoes.