7 questions to ask when choosing a solicitor for your child’s compensation claim

18 April 2024

By Cheryl Abrahams, Partner in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp

7 questions to ask when choosing a solicitor for your child’s compensation claim

18 April 2024

By Cheryl Abrahams, Partner in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Cerebra understands that as a parent or carer of a disabled child you might need to seek legal advice for your child at some stage. They also understand choosing the right solicitor for the legal advice you need is crucial – as well as daunting. That’s why they have loads of helpful resources on their website to help you create a shortlist of knowledgeable and experienced solicitors, specialising in the field of law you need, for you to contact for an initial discussion.

But what then? Suppose you’re seeking legal advice on whether your child has a claim for compensation for clinical negligence and you’ve identified five firms you think might be able to help – how do you differentiate between the various firms on your shortlist?

During your first discussion, which may well be by telephone, the solicitor should be able to say whether they can help and, if so, what the process is, how the case could be funded and what the next step would be if you want to go ahead. To help you decide if you want to go ahead with them, it can be helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask all the firms on your shortlist so that you can compare the answers.

I have compiled a list of questions you might like to ask. Not all will be relevant to your situation, some questions will carry greater weight for you than others, and there may well be other questions you want to ask that I’ve not included below.

Keep a note of the answers so after the first discussions you can review them and decide which is the best fit for you.

It’s a good idea to try to ask ‘open’ questions – ones that don’t have a Yes/No answer – to encourage a longer more detailed response.

Perhaps also think about the way the answers are given. Are they given confidently or hesitantly, for example. You may not need to ask all the questions before deciding who to instruct – and who not to instruct!

So, here are a few questions you may like to ask potential solicitors to help you choose the best representation for your child’s claim for compensation:

How can you demonstrate you have the required expertise?

You’ve already shortlisted the firm for its knowledge and expertise in cases involving medical negligence and/or child neurological conditions, but you will want to know they have worked on cases like your child’s before. Ask if they can point to a success story on their website or if they can talk to you about a case they’ve handled with similarities to your child’s case. Were they successful?

If I instruct you, who would be working on my child’s case?

You will want to know if there would be a dedicated team working on your child’s case or a single individual. Either way, you need to know who would have overall responsibility, what their qualifications and experience are, and who would be the best person for you to contact if you have any queries or concerns.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, each client of the child brain injury team is looked after by a ‘mini team’, normally of two or three people which includes a senior member of the team, like a partner, and a more junior solicitor and a paralegal. In this way, there’s always someone available who knows your child and your family, and we can do the work at the right level and at the right time.

As far as we are aware, we are the only team of lawyers in the country that acts exclusively for children who have suffered a brain injury. Other teams in other firms act for brain-injured children but also act for adults with brain injuries and for people who suffer other types of injuries.

Because we only act for children with brain injuries, we are highly specialised and have in-depth knowledge and experience of the needs of a child who suffers a brain injury.

Ten of us are IPSEA Level 1 qualified Special Educational Needs advisors, because we know it’s often a struggle for a child with a neurological condition to get the support they need at school.

Our child brain injury team is headed up by Claudia Hillemand, a partner in the firm, who qualified as a solicitor in October 2012, and is on the Clinical Negligence Panel for AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents).

How flexible are you?

You will want the solicitor you instruct to work around your commitments such as childcare, work and family responsibilities, and be contactable in an emergency.

So, look for a team that makes this easy for you. Will they come to see you at home or will you be expected to travel to see them?  Can you speak to someone knowledgeable about your child’s case outside working hours and at weekends?

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we pride ourselves on offering round-the-clock support. Our clients have our mobile phone numbers as well as email addresses so you can contact us at any time. We know your time is precious and travelling with a disabled child is stressful, so will visit you at home or in hospital, anywhere in the country, and at a time that’s convenient for you, including weekends.

How will my child’s case be funded?

The person you speak to during your initial discussion with your shortlisted firm should explain how your child’s case would be paid for. This might be through legal aid, or under a conditional fee (“no win-no fee”) agreement and these should be explained to you in general terms, with more detailed information provided in writing should you choose to go ahead.

In the meantime, a couple of specific questions you could ask to help you decide if you want to go ahead with the firm are:

  • How would the costs of investigating the case be covered?
  • Would there be any deductions from compensation at the end of the case and, if so, how would these be calculated?

Bolt Burdon Kemp will not ask for upfront payment for the costs of investigating the case. If the investigation concludes that there is no evidence to support a claim, the investigation costs will either be covered by legal aid, after-the-event insurance or they will be written off. You will not have to pay anything out of your pocket.

If the claim is successful, unlike many firms that routinely make deductions from compensation to cover costs and expenses not recouped from the defendant, Bolt Burdon Kemp will not deduct anything from your child’s compensation, so we can guarantee your child will keep 100% of their compensation.

What practical help and support could you offer – and when?

If you’re under financial pressure, or your child urgently needs treatment or equipment, you need to know if the solicitor’s firm could offer any immediate solutions. If not, ask if you have to wait until there are funds available through the claim and, if so, how long would that be.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we understand waiting for funds to become available isn’t always feasible. So, our Early Support Service steps in right from the start to address pressing issues promptly. We offer practical solutions such as managing creditors and service suppliers, giving employment support, helping with applications for emergency funds, grants, and state benefits, and much more.

Once the claim is up and running, we make it a priority to get early and substantial interim payments of compensation to make a real and positive difference to your child’s and family’s quality of life, while we work towards a final settlement.

What challenges do you think there might be in pursuing compensation for my child’s injuries?

Claims for compensation for brain injuries in a child can be intricate, involving medical evidence, causation, and legal nuances. By asking about challenges, you gain insight into the solicitor’s expertise and understanding of the complexities that are likely to be involved.

A competent solicitor should be able to foresee and articulate the potential hurdles specific to your child’s injury and their claim.

A solicitor who anticipates challenges can better prepare the case. They can develop a strategic approach, gather relevant evidence, and address potential obstacles early on, increasing the chances of a successful outcome.

You can also gauge how transparent the solicitor will be. A solicitor who openly discusses potential difficulties shows honesty and commitment. You want someone who communicates openly and prepares you for what lies ahead.

If I instruct you, what would be the next step?

The person you speak to during your initial discussion with your shortlisted firms ought to explain what would happen next if you choose to instruct them. There will be some paperwork to sign but the key things to look out for here are: at what point does the firm request the medical records and when will they arrange to meet with you.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we request the medical records as soon as we have your written authority to do so. The medical records are key to investigating whether there is a claim and there is never a reason to delay this request.

We also want to meet you and your child as soon as practically possible, ideally in the comfort of your own home. We want you to feel at ease sharing your experiences openly and honestly in your familiar environment. This first-hand perspective helps us gain deeper insight into your situation and understand how your child’s condition has impacted your family, enabling us to gather the evidence and put in place the practical solutions needed without delay.

What if, after your initial discussions by telephone with your shortlisted firms you’re still undecided about who to instruct?

We recommend asking for a face-to-face meeting. There is nothing quite like meeting someone in person to get a sense of what they will be like to work with.

Specialist firms like Bolt Burdon Kemp understand making a claim is a deeply personal experience and will willingly agree to meet, without charge and without obligation. The lawyer-client relationship is built on mutual trust, transparency, and openness. Communication with your lawyer is crucial. Before you instruct anyone, make sure you feel comfortable speaking honestly and openly with him or her.

By asking these questions and discussing your child’s specific needs and circumstances, you can make an informed decision about who to instruct on behalf of your child. An experienced and knowledgeable solicitor will expect to be asked questions like these and will be prepared to answer them. So don’t be nervous, and good luck!

By Cheryl Abrahams, Partner in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp


Although we are grateful to receive support from a number of corporate sponsors, we do not endorse any specific organisation. If you are seeking legal advice, we encourage you to contact a number of experienced solicitors for an initial discussion before selecting a firm.

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