How does no win no fee work (Vic)?
In Victoria, it is the norm for personal injury law firms to offer to act on a no win no fee basis in many WorkCover matters.
But what exactly does no win no fee mean and how does it work?
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There are differences between law firms agreements
The first thing that you should be aware of is that although most law firms offer no-win no fee services in WorkCover matters, they are not all the same.
And for this reason it’s Important that you understand how a no win no fee arrangement works before you enter into one.
Speaking in a general sense, many people believe that a no-win no fee agreement means that a lawyer will agree to run your case from start to finish without you paying any costs unless you win your case. Then, costs are payable at the end.
There are some no win no fee agreements that are as simple as this – however many are not.
Here’s how different agreements can work:
1. Professional fees waived if don’t succeed. Disbursements waived in don’t succeed. No money payable by the client prior to or during the running of the case.
2. Professional fees waived if don’t succeed. Disbursements waived if don’t succeed. Money payable prior to or during the running of the case.
3. Professional fees waived if don’t succeed. Disbursements not waived if don’t succeed. No money payable prior to or during the running of the case.
Lets look further at what professional fees and disbursements are and how they work.
The two types of costs
When it comes to no-win no fee agreements, there are two broad categories of costs.
The first is professional fees
These are fees for the time that your lawyer (or lawyers) have spent working on your matter. This also includes the time that any administrative staff spent working on your matter.
Disbursements are the second type of fees
These are expenses that your law firm pays out to other parties in order to progress your claim.
Some examples of disbursements are:
- barristers fees
- cost of medical reports or other medical material from your treating doctors and other health practitioners you might have seen (eg; physiotherapists, chiropractors)
- cost of medico-legal assessments
- cost of other experts
- postage fees
- filing fees.
The longer and more involved that your matter is, usually the greater the disbursements bill is likely to be.
For example, if you have a matter that requires a barrister, then your disbursement bill could potentially be many thousands of dollars.
Likewise, if you have to be assessed by a medical expert this can cost anywhere from $1500 to $3000 per assessment.
A no win no fee agreement will in most cases mean that you do not have to pay any of the professional costs (that is, cost for work done by the law firm) unless there is a successful outcome in your case.
Most people assume that the definition of successful outcome is if you win your case either by way of settlement or a judgement in your favour and you obtain financial compensation.
It’s important to keep in mind however that when entering into a no win no fee agreement, you should review the definition of a successful outcome in the agreement.
Different law firms will have different definitions for a successful outcome is and so it is important therefore for you to understand what you are signing up to.
For example, with some law firms a successful outcome could for mean that you get paid no compensation but you can receive a bill for work done. An example of this is if you get medical treatment awarded to you. You get no financial compensation paid to you out of which legal fees can be deducted, but you still may be asked to pay for work done.
On the other side of the coin, while most law firms will waive any professional fees for work done if you lose your case, many will ask you to pay for the disbursement costs.
For this reason it is important that you discuss this with your lawyer before entering into a no win no fee agreement.
Even if some of the disbursement cost is able to be recovered from the Victorian WorkCover Authority, the bill that you can be left with in terms of disbursements can be significant.
We offer our clients a 100% no win no fee agreement in most cases which means that even if they lose, they will not be required to pay for any disbursements owing in the case.
What about the costs of the other side?
If you push your WorkCover matter in Victoria through a lawyer, you will in the vast majority of cases not be required to pay any costs of the other side.
So say for example that you pursue an impairment claim and you lose, you would not be required to pay any of the insurance company’s costs associated with the claim.
Say you pursued a common law claim and in this instance the WorkCover Insurer would engage a law firm to act on their behalf.
If you were unsuccessful in your common law claim you will usually not be required to pay the legal costs of the other side.
In some cases however, you can be pursued for cost of the other side usually in cases where someone has been fraudulent.
If you have concerns about having to pay costs to an opposing party, you should discuss this with your lawyer so they can address your individual circumstances.
In some cases, no win no fee means that you will not have to pay any costs to your lawyer for professional costs or disbursements unless you are successful in your matter.
However, this isn’t always the case as no all no win no fee agreements are the same. In some instances for example, if you are not successful with you matter you may still be required to pay the cost of any disbursements to your WorkCover lawyer.