The UK is divided into three separate legal jurisdictions: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Each has slightly different laws, and in most cases a personal injury claim has to made in the jurisdiction the accident occurred and will be dealt with according to the laws there.
Here we look at making a compensation claim in Scotland, and how it can differ from other countries in the UK.
Legal differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK
In general, the same laws apply throughout the UK – if you can prove your injuries were someone else’s fault and they can be held liable, you’re entitled to claim compensation. Similarly, the time limit for personal injury claims is the same. You have three years from first becoming aware of the injury or illness sustained to make a claim.
However, when it comes to claiming compensation, Scotland has some significant differences to the rest of the UK. These mainly lie in the agreement you enter into with your solicitor, the amount of compensation you’ll receive, and the costs and expenses you can expect to incur. Of course, you don’t actually have to pay this money personally as it is deducted from the final settlement.
Scottish solicitor agreements and fees
In England and Wales, an agreement is made with the solicitor on the percentage of compensation that will be taken as payment. Usually this is a maximum of 25% of the settlement amount. Whereas in Scotland, many agreements are based on a ‘success fee’, which is calculated as a percentage of legal fees and not the settlement amount recovered by the client.
Following a review in 2009, these kind of agreements were found to be a major contributor to disproportionate costs. The more solicitors could charge in legal fees, the higher the success fee would be. This led to abuse of the system, where in some cases these fees would include expenses which are unnecessarily incurred, and subsequent heavy criticism of personal injury claims by insurers and the media.
To prevent this happening, Scotland has moved towards agreements similar to those in England and Wales, with fees based on settlement amounts rather than legal fees. The big difference is that the fee is capped according to the final settlement amount, rather than agreed as a percentage of the total:
- On settlements up to £2,500 the fee will be 25%
- On the excess over £2,500 up to £5,000 the fee will be 15%
- On the excess over £5,000 up to £10,000 the fee will be 7.5%
- On the excess over £10,000 up to £20,000 the fee will be 5%
- On the excess over £20,000 the fee will be 2.5%
What if your claim is unsuccessful?
Just like in England, you’ll probably enter into an agreement with your solicitor that says you don’t have to pay them anything if the case fails. However, if the case does fail, you can still be pursued by the third party for their legal costs. To cover this you can take out legal insurance, which you may even already have on your car insurance policy, for example.
More recently, new proposals in Scotland set out the introduction of ‘qualified one way costs shifting’, under which claimants won’t be responsible for third party legal costs unless they acted inappropriately (fraud, for example.)
Do you have to use a Scottish solicitor?
If you have an accident in Scotland, you’re required to use the Scottish legal system to claim compensation unless it’s a work-related claim and your company is based elsewhere. This applies even if you don’t live in Scotland. A solicitor who practises in England doesn’t automatically have the right to represent a person in the Scottish courts, and vice versa.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to travel north to meet your solicitor, as most claims are dealt with over the phone, by email or letter. The benefit of using a Scottish solicitor is that they specialise in Scottish law and are more likely to see your claim through to a successful outcome.
As a nationwide service, Direct2Compensation provides claimants with access to solicitors across the UK. This means if you’re injured in Scotland, you’ll be working with a solicitor based there who knows the best way to maximise the chances of success in the Scottish legal system.
If you’re considering making a claim for compensation, please contact one of our expert advisors who will be able to answer any questions you have.