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10 questions you must ask before choosing a compensation lawyer

Ten questions you must ask of any compensation lawyer

If you go to your local lawyer who does your conveyancing and wills and he tells you he can do your compensation claim then you are not getting the best lawyer for the job. Some lawyers will accept any case that comes through the door but you must make sure that your lawyer practices almost exclusively in compensation law.

1. What area of law do you specialise in?

You must choose an expert compensation lawyer.

You must retain a lawyer that is a specialist in compensation law. Lawyers, like doctors or other professionals, these days will usually specialise in one particular area of law. Some lawyers will specialise in family law, criminal law or employment law for example. You need a lawyer whose practice is 100% compensation law.

2. Are you an accredited specialist in personal injury law by the Law Society of New South Wales?

Your lawyer must have official accreditation as a compensation law expert.

If the lawyer you are consulting is not an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law by the NSW Law Society then you have the wrong lawyer. The Law Society of NSW gives specialist accreditation to those personal injury lawyers who have passed an exam demonstrating their skill and expertise and have also passed a peer interview with other expert compensation lawyers. Only lawyers who are really experts in this area are accredited by the NSW Law Society.

3. Who in the office will actually be handling my case and what are their qualifications?

Don’t get delegated to a junior lawyer.

This is the probably the most important question that you must ask. The lawyer you might be speaking with at the initial consultation, who could be a partner and an Accredited Specialist may not actually be the lawyer handling the case. Most of the larger law firms use the approach where you will be initially speak to a partner who seems impressive and is an Accredited Specialist but then your case will be handed to a more junior lawyer. This junior lawyer will not be an accredited specialist and will be inexperienced and will make errors on your claim. The junior lawyer may be using your claim to gain experience.

You need to know the name of the lawyer who is actually doing the legal work on your claim and if that lawyer is an accredited specialist in personal injury law. If not, you have the wrong lawyer.

This issue is simple – do you want a lawyer that you can call with experience who knows what they are doing and will provide value or do you want to be treated like a commodity or a number. The larger law firms tend to treat clients like numbers and farm out the cases to junior lawyers. You will have difficulty ever speaking to a senior lawyer, you will probably never hear from the Partner again and you will not get the result you deserve.

4. Have you ever been disciplined by the NSW Legal Services Commissioner?

Deal with a trusted professional.

How calls and does not treat people fairly and openly. Legal costs are a big issue in compensation claims and some lawyers will overcharge. These lawyers have often been disciplined by the NSW Legal Services Commissioner and you should be aware of any such record.

5. What is the chance of success for my case?

Know if your claim will be successful.

The lawyer after discussing the circumstances of your claim with you should know immediately whether or not your case is likely to be successful. If the lawyer is an expert in compensation law, he or she should know how long the claim will take and whether or not you will succeed.

If the lawyer does not answer this questions directly or needs to do some “further research”, then he or she is not an expert in compensation law. If they tell you that they are “not really sure” if you will be successful then they are not an expert in compensation law.

No lawyer can guarantee you success in any claim however they should be able to give you a firm indication of success by giving you a percentage breakdown of the likelihood of success. i.e 70% successful vs 30% not likely to be successful.

6. How much is my case worth?

Know how much your claim is worth from the start.

Again, if the lawyer truly is an expert in compensation law he or she should be able to give you a dollar range for the value of your claim. After the first consultation it is usually fairly clear within $50,000.00 or $100,000.000 what the value of your claim may be. This of course can only be an estimate however your lawyer should be able to give you the estimated value of your claim almost immediately.

If your lawyer is unable to provide a guide as to the value of your claim from the start then they are either hiding something from you or are not an expert in compensation law.

7. How long will my case take to complete?

Know the key timeline.

An experienced compensation lawyer will be able to give you a very good guide as to how long the claim will take. It can only be an estimate however the lawyer should be able to give you a good idea at the very beginning how long the claim may take. If you don’t get a straight answer to this question is an indication that the lawyer is not very experienced.

8. How do you charge legal fees?

Agree on the total cost for the claim. Hourly rates are dangerous, more costly and do not return a better result

Most lawyers charge an hourly rate for their legal costs. Most compensation cases (but not all­) do not require a lawyer to charge an hourly rate. Hourly rates cause a conflict of interest between you and your lawyer. An hourly rate also does not give you any idea of how much you are likely to pay in legal costs at the conclusion of your claim. Will it take 10 hours or 110 hours? You have no way of knowing.

If a lawyer is charging by the hour then he wants your case to be as complex as possible (so he can do lots of busy work) and to go for as long as possible (so he can charge more hours doing busy work). You on the other hand want your case to be simple and finalised as quickly as possible. This is in direct conflict with a lawyer who charges by the hour.

Instead you should ask your lawyer if they will charge a lump sum amount either for stages of preparation or an agreed up front amount. This provides an incentive to your lawyer to finalise your claim quickly and for the right value. It is known as value billing.

Warning… If a lawyer tries to charge you a percentage of what your claim is worth, run. This is known as a contingency fee and is banned in NSW and Australia. Lawyers are not allowed to charge you a percentage of your settlement.

The lawyer might object to agreeing on a lump sum amount on the basis that they do not know how long the case will take or what work will be required, this is nonsense. If they are an expert in compensation law they should know precisely the issues in your claim, how long it will take and what they need to do to win. This can easily be assessed and agreed to at the beginning of the claim as a lump sum amount which is payable at the conclusion of the claim for stages of preparation.

9. Please explain no win no fee cost agreements?

No win no fee does not mean free. Understand what you are being charged.

You should always understand the costs agreement that is provided to you. They can be confusing. Ask your lawyer to explain the terms contained in the cost agreement, in particular a no win no fee agreement.

Most compensation lawyers will charge on a no win no fee basis. This means that you do not pay any legal fees unless your claim is successful. What it does not mean is that you do not pay any legal costs at all. Legal costs are still payable but they are payable at the conclusion of the claim when you obtain your compensation. You will still be required to pay your lawyers legal costs.

Some lawyers also fail to explain that if you should lose your case, no win-no fee means that you do not pay your own lawyers legal cost, but you are still required to pay the insurance companies legal costs.

This could amount to thousands of dollars.

Before you enter into a costs agreement with a lawyer you need to make sure you understand the following:

  1. How your lawyer will charge legal costs, hourly rate or some other method?
  2. Is it a No Win No Fee agreement and what does that mean?
  3. If you lose will you be required to pay the defendant’s legal costs?

10. Is the Lawyer willing to fund payment of the disbursements (the cost of medical reports) in the case or is it funded by an outside company or do I have to pay up front?

Disbursements are payments for medical reports, expert reports and court fees which need to be paid as your claim progresses. A well established and experienced Compensation lawyer will fund these disbursements on your behalf.

The disbursements will need to be paid back with a small amount of interest at the conclusion of the claim. Usually you should not have to pay for these expenses yourself upfront. A lawyer who doesn’t specialise in compensation claims will ask for payment upfront.

Some law firms use a litigation funding firm to pay for disbursements on your behalf. You will usually have to sign a separate document agreeing to refund the disbursements at the conclusion of the claim as well as payment of interest to the funding firm. This interest rate can be quite high so be careful what you are being charged.

Make sure you understand what you need to repay at the conclusion of your claim.

Who is paying for the disbursements?

Now you have the power!

Now that you are armed with these ten questions you will be able to cut through and recognise the instant hype and be able to choose the best lawyer for your case. Do your research, ask the questions we have outlined and choose wisely.

Here are 3 more things to think about when choosing your lawyer

  1. Make sure you are getting straight answers and make sure you like your lawyer. You will be spending a lot of time talking to your lawyer so make sure it is someone you will be able to get along with and someone your trust. This is very important.
  2. Don’t choose your lawyer because his or her office is close to home and is convenient. This is one of the best ways to get a lawyer who is not a specialist personal injury lawyer. The best lawyers usually work in the CBD as this is where the Supreme Court is located and where they spend their time. Whilst a lawyer may be convenient, you must make sure they can answer all 10 questions.
  3. An experienced lawyer even if they charge more will always be more worthwhile over a less expensive, inexperienced lawyer. You only have one chance to obtain proper compensation and it must be done well. The more experienced lawyer whilst charging more will get you a result that more than makes up for the added expense and in less time. An inexperienced lawyer will be charging you to learn on the job, that’s not who I would want handling my case.

The most important decision you can make in your compensation claim is choosing the lawyer. Don’t just go for the first lawyer you find. All lawyers are not the same. There are good lawyers and bad lawyers. If necessary you need to interview a number of lawyers before deciding on the one you want to represent you.

Make sure the lawyer actually handling your case is a NSW Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.

You can receive a no obligation free case assessment here.

If you have found this information helpful and would like to discuss your compensation claim with us, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Garling & Co Lawyers

Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law approved by New South Wales Law Society. He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia. Matthew is also a member of...
Ray H.
07:33 13 Jun 24
Matthew Garling and Team are kind, patient, polite, professional, empathetic and efficient. I was treated terribly by the at fault insurer. Garling and Co. had my back. Matthew gently and patiently... kept me up to speed on all the steps to go through. From my personal experience I recommend these guys. They are safe hands. Thank you team.read more
Jo L.
05:58 07 May 24
So very impressed with the professional team who looked after me throughout the last 4 and 1/2 years. A special mention to Kerry and Nathan who navigated each request to fight for my right to gain... access to further treatments and physio and to ensure medical treatment would be covered moving forward. I was so grateful I could hand it all over to you and not have to go through this very challenging time without your support.I thank you for the compassion you have provided to me, from the first contact with Matthew and Natasha, to finalisation with Kerry and Nathan.I highly recommend the team at Garling and Co for any third party compensation claims. You are in good hands with them all.read more
Linda O.
21:53 06 May 24
Emma, Rebecca and the team at Garling and Co have worked diligently throughout my workers compensation claim. The level of professionalism, support and communication has been faultless. Of particular... note has been the sensitivity displayed to me throughout the lengthy process. Worker’s compensation claims are complex and not easy to navigate, particularly when you are unwell. I do not hesitate to recommend Garling and Co to help you find a way through this otherwise unfathomable system.read more
Keith H.
20:51 23 Apr 24
After my case stalled with another firm, I decided to give Matthew Garling a call. He took my case and not only won, but achieved an outcome that far exceeded my expectations. This firm is the best... in the business in my opinion and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.read more
Anthony T.
00:50 16 Apr 24
Thank you Matthew and his team who guided me through the legal process, a truly positive experience with total professionalism.
Mikaele N.
03:01 15 Apr 24
Garling &Co Lawyers were awesome, I called every compensation law firm and was told that I couldn't claim for compensation.The whole experience and process was simple and stress free.Mr Matthew... Garling and Allison deserve an accolades for the very best in client service. I would highly recommend their service to anyone.read more
Tamara L.
02:10 15 Apr 24
I want to thank Garling & Co so much for all the help they have given me and helped with my claim. We got the win last week and it was the best news I have gotten considering how much my life has... been turned upside down the past 2 years. Emma and Rebecca have been incredible to work with and explained everything from the start even when I had hesitation to go ahead regarding how much everything would cost or how fair it could go or even if I had a chance, but they explained everything thoroughly, so I understood it all. Thank you for making this process seamlessly easy and helping me get the win it will make things a little easy for me that's for sure financial thank you for all your help I cannot recommend you and your services enough. Thank you again.read more
Sigrid W.
05:01 11 Apr 24
Utter professionalism from first phone call to final settlement. It was a pleasure to be represented by a firm that actually cares for their clients. From office staff, to paralegal and solicitor... Rebecca, Emma and Matthew thank you for your support and expertise throughout my claim. No wonder your firm has won many awards. I'm extremely happy with my outcome and can confidently recommend your firm.read more
BJ S.
01:09 09 Apr 24
Highly recommend Matthew & Allison at Garling and Co ! Quick response ! helpful every step of the way ! If you want the best compensation lawyer, Matthew @ Garling and co is the bestDoesn’t waste... time. Very informative ! excellent guidance! They get the job done ✅Website is perfect guide5 Star ⭐️ is not enoughI’m so grateful to Matthew, Allison and team for my outcome so far !Thank you 😊 Garling and co are awesome 👏 🤩read more
Jaimie K.
06:11 02 Apr 24
Have had a rollercoaster ride with Garling and Co over the several years we have been battling the system that injured workers are faced with. The wheels of progress are slow within this system.... However Garling and co have always stood by me. Calls are returned and matters are always followed up in a timely manner.read more
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Ray H.
07:33 13 Jun 24
Matthew Garling and Team are kind, patient, polite, professional, empathetic and efficient. I was treated terribly by the at fault insurer. Garling and Co. had my back. Matthew gently and patiently... kept me up to speed on all the steps to go through. From my personal experience I recommend these guys. They are safe hands. Thank you team.read more
Jo L.
05:58 07 May 24
So very impressed with the professional team who looked after me throughout the last 4 and 1/2 years. A special mention to Kerry and Nathan who navigated each request to fight for my right to gain... access to further treatments and physio and to ensure medical treatment would be covered moving forward. I was so grateful I could hand it all over to you and not have to go through this very challenging time without your support.I thank you for the compassion you have provided to me, from the first contact with Matthew and Natasha, to finalisation with Kerry and Nathan.I highly recommend the team at Garling and Co for any third party compensation claims. You are in good hands with them all.read more
Linda O.
21:53 06 May 24
Emma, Rebecca and the team at Garling and Co have worked diligently throughout my workers compensation claim. The level of professionalism, support and communication has been faultless. Of particular... note has been the sensitivity displayed to me throughout the lengthy process. Worker’s compensation claims are complex and not easy to navigate, particularly when you are unwell. I do not hesitate to recommend Garling and Co to help you find a way through this otherwise unfathomable system.read more
Keith H.
20:51 23 Apr 24
After my case stalled with another firm, I decided to give Matthew Garling a call. He took my case and not only won, but achieved an outcome that far exceeded my expectations. This firm is the best... in the business in my opinion and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.read more
Anthony T.
00:50 16 Apr 24
Thank you Matthew and his team who guided me through the legal process, a truly positive experience with total professionalism.
Mikaele N.
03:01 15 Apr 24
Garling &Co Lawyers were awesome, I called every compensation law firm and was told that I couldn't claim for compensation.The whole experience and process was simple and stress free.Mr Matthew... Garling and Allison deserve an accolades for the very best in client service. I would highly recommend their service to anyone.read more
Tamara L.
02:10 15 Apr 24
I want to thank Garling & Co so much for all the help they have given me and helped with my claim. We got the win last week and it was the best news I have gotten considering how much my life has... been turned upside down the past 2 years. Emma and Rebecca have been incredible to work with and explained everything from the start even when I had hesitation to go ahead regarding how much everything would cost or how fair it could go or even if I had a chance, but they explained everything thoroughly, so I understood it all. Thank you for making this process seamlessly easy and helping me get the win it will make things a little easy for me that's for sure financial thank you for all your help I cannot recommend you and your services enough. Thank you again.read more
Sigrid W.
05:01 11 Apr 24
Utter professionalism from first phone call to final settlement. It was a pleasure to be represented by a firm that actually cares for their clients. From office staff, to paralegal and solicitor... Rebecca, Emma and Matthew thank you for your support and expertise throughout my claim. No wonder your firm has won many awards. I'm extremely happy with my outcome and can confidently recommend your firm.read more
BJ S.
01:09 09 Apr 24
Highly recommend Matthew & Allison at Garling and Co ! Quick response ! helpful every step of the way ! If you want the best compensation lawyer, Matthew @ Garling and co is the bestDoesn’t waste... time. Very informative ! excellent guidance! They get the job done ✅Website is perfect guide5 Star ⭐️ is not enoughI’m so grateful to Matthew, Allison and team for my outcome so far !Thank you 😊 Garling and co are awesome 👏 🤩read more
Jaimie K.
06:11 02 Apr 24
Have had a rollercoaster ride with Garling and Co over the several years we have been battling the system that injured workers are faced with. The wheels of progress are slow within this system.... However Garling and co have always stood by me. Calls are returned and matters are always followed up in a timely manner.read more
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
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