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Is pursuing a case privately worth the risk?

The majority of Thompsons Northern Ireland’s (NI) clients are members of trade unions which means they have the benefit of having their case funded by their respective union, provided they have reasonable prospects of success and they adhere to the conditions set out in our retainer letter.

We also offer expert advice to a large number of clients who are privately funded. These are clients who are not eligible for Legal Aid as they earn above the threshold. It can be quite daunting to privately fund as there is a potentially serious financial risk in the unfortunate event that the case is lost.

Realising the potential risk involved in pursuing a case privately, Thompsons NI has developed relationships with a number of insurance companies who will provide After the Event (ATE) Legal insurance. In the event that a case is lost, the insurance company will pay all third party costs, including the defendant’s solicitor and counsel fees, as well as the plaintiff’s disbursements up to the limit of indemnity required as incurred from the date of instruction. In the event that a case is won, the plaintiff will only have to pay a premium that is pre-agreed upon the resolution of the case which comes out of the plaintiff’s damages.

Read how we helped a woman secure a five figure sum in compensation

A Thompsons NI client worked as a flight attendant at a large UK airline. She had just landed at Belfast City Airport where she welcomed passengers onto the plane using the steps which were attached at the rear. After the passengers had boarded the plane, our client made her way to rear to pull the steps in and she slipped on de-icing fluid that had been walked onto the plane by the passengers. As a result of the accident, she sustained soft tissue injuries to her neck, right shoulder, right ankle, lower back and pelvis region.

The airline denied liability and alleged that our client was not wearing the correct shoes, and that she should have been aware of the de-icing fluid. Having reviewed the denial and the accompanying discoverable documentation, we believed this denial was flawed. The risk assessment provided highlighted that the rear galley door was at medium risk of slippage if contaminated by de-icing fluid. We argued that there was no mat at the rear of the galley, and this information was never disclosed to our client. We argued that if a mat had been there, this incident would not have occurred. 

Despite our argument, liability remained denied by the airline and our client had to decide whether she wanted to back down or move forward with her case. On the basis of the evidence, we believed that our client had reasonable prospects of success. Feeling uncertain of what to do, our client considered walking away, but after various discussions, our client put her faith in our assessment of the case and instructed us to move forward.

Insurance was secured and our client was medically examined immediately. Court proceedings were then issued. Initially, the defendants remained firm on their denial however once we confirmed that we were ready to go to hearing, they entered into settlement discussions outside of court. Thompsons NI instructed an experienced barrister to conduct these negotiations and we secured a five-figure compensation sum for our client.

Our client said: “Initially, I was apprehensive with the case moving forward. I was reassured by Damien Watson to keep going until the end and I am delighted with the result. I’d like to thank Thompsons NI for such efficient and knowledgeable work on my behalf.”

Damien Watson, personal injury solicitor, said: “There is always a risk in pursuing a case of this nature. Our job is to advise the client on the prospects of success and minimise this risk by providing the option of ATE insurance. The final decision always rests with the client. I am delighted that she trusted our judgement in this case and am thrilled with the outcome.”