What is distress and inconvenience?

What is distress and inconvenience?Distress and inconvenience is the harmful effect that poor service from your solicitor has on your general wellbeing.Distress refers to genuine w

What is distress and inconvenience?

What is distress and inconvenience?

Distress and inconvenience is the harmful effect that poor service from your solicitor has on your general wellbeing.

Distress refers to genuine worry, concern, embarrassment, anxiety, disappointment and loss of reasonable expectations. Distress can vary greatly, from minor annoyance through to worry and anxiety that causes medical symptoms.

Inconvenience refers to the time and effort you've spent on a complaint that would not have been necessary if your solicitor's service had been adequate. Inconvenience can also arise from the poor service itself (for example, if you had to travel to court for a wasted appointment, or you had to chase the solicitor for a report).

How much money will I get?

The most compensation we can award you is Ј15,000, but this would include any amount to cover the financial effects of the poor service. Such a high amount of compensation is rare. Compensation for distress and inconvenience is usually much lower, as you will see from the following examples.

We do not have a set amount we award. We will assess your case on its own merits when deciding how much compensation your solicitor should pay you.

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What if I haven't paid the solicitor's bill?

If you and the solicitor agree how much you owe for your costs, we will usually ask the solicitor to take any compensation from the amount you owe.

If the solicitor's costs have been assessed by the court, we would usually ask the solicitor to take any compensation from the amount you owe.

If you and the solicitor disagree over how much you owe, we may ask the solicitor to pay you the compensation directly.

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Compensation and the harmful effect of poor service

We may tell your solicitor to pay you compensation if the effect their poor service has had on you falls into one of the categories listed below.

  • Modest
  • Significant
  • Serious
  • Extremely serious

Your solicitor's poor service has had a limited effect. Your solicitor has made one or more minor mistakes, which they may have admitted. They may have taken steps to put their mistakes right.

Your solicitor's poor service has had a more serious effect on you, but not a lasting one. The poor quality of your solicitor's service has caused some worry, concern, annoyance, upset or inconvenience, but it has been a short-term effect and the problem may have been solved.

As a result of your solicitor's poor service, you have suffered a serious effect, probably over a long period of time. Your quality of life has been considerably disrupted, or you, your family or both have suffered particular difficulties.

Your solicitor's poor service has severely affected your wellbeing, possibly over a long period of time or with permanent effects. Situations of this kind occur very rarely. The amount of compensation your solicitor has to pay could be very large.

When considering these categories you should think what effect your solicitor's poor service had on you?

  • were you upset or worried?
  • what was the cause of your distress? Was the cause of your distress the case itself?
  • or was the cause of your distress the poor service or actions of your solicitor?
  • your reason for instructing a solicitor could itself have been stressful (for example, divorce, crime, moving house, dealing with the death of a loved one). Perhaps you find visiting a solicitor stressful in itself. We will only award compensation if your solicitor's poor service added to stress caused by such factors.

The poor service may have had a more significant effect on you because of your circumstances (for example, you may have a disability)

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How will you work out my compensation?

We look at each case individually, and use records of compensation we have awarded in similar circumstances to make sure we're consistent. However, no two cases are the same and we will try to assess what is fair in your particular situation.

When we are deciding the amount of compensation you should receive we take account of the effect the solicitor's poor service has had on you.

Some clients are more vulnerable than others, especially those who are involved in sensitive and emotional issues. Solicitors need to take this into account in all of their dealings with clients - including when dealing with complaints. If a solicitor fails to handle a client's complaint in a reasonable way, this may cause their client added distress or inconvenience. If your solicitor's poor service has caused you distress or inconvenience, we may decide that you should receive compensation for it.

When we decide the amount of compensation you should receive, we'll take account of anything your solicitor has already done to settle your complaint including

  • making an apology or explaining the situation
  • offering you a credit note towards fees
  • offering to take further action free of charge

If we think your solicitor's actions make up for their poor service, we may

  • tell you that we think your solicitor's offer is reasonable
  • advise you to accept your solicitor's offer
  • decide not to award any further compensation

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How can I work out what my compensation might be?

Estimate your compensation

When you're estimating the amount of money we might tell your solicitor to pay you as compensation for their poor service, think about

  • what went wrong
  • what effect it had on you

You should ask yourself the following questions

What made your solicitor's service poor?

  • what were the problems with the service your solicitor provided?
  • where did the solicitor go wrong?
  • make a list of all your criticisms of your solicitor's service. (You should look for reasonable quality from your solicitor - not perfection.)

What effect has your solicitor's poor service had on you?

  • were you upset or worried?
  • what was the cause of your distress?
  • were you distressed by the case itself, or was distress caused by the poor service or actions of your solicitor?
  • were your reasons for instructing a solicitor stressful (for example, divorce, crime, moving house, dealing with the death of a loved one). Perhaps you find visiting a solicitor stressful in itself. We will only award compensation if your solicitor's poor service caused distress or added to stress caused by such factors.

Has your solicitor's poor service caused you any inconvenience?

  • did your solicitor's poor service cause you to make phone calls, write letters or take time off work?
  • were you forced to instruct another solicitor?
  • remember that we can only award compensation for inconvenience caused directly by your solicitor's poor service - not for inconvenience that you would have experienced anyway.

How did your solicitor handle your complaint?

  • did your solicitor deal with your complaint in a reasonable way?
  • did your solicitor meet you to discuss your complaint?
  • did your solicitor accept some or all of your complaints about their service? If so, did your solicitor explain how the problem arose?
  • did your solicitor apologise to you?
  • did your solicitor offer to put things right or to reduce their fees?

What would an independent, unbiased person think about your case?

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