Louise Hart – Interviewed by Bath Life Magazine
Name: Louise Hart
Firm’s name: Withy King
Job title: Partner
How long in role: I’ve been at Withy King for 24 years and lead the firm’s personal injury team in Bath.
What’s your specialist area?
Withy King’s 34-strong personal injury team represents people with all sorts of injuries, including serious brain and spinal injuries, but my specialist area is working with amputees and those suffering with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I also deal with general orthopedic claims
How has the area changed? / What changes have you seen?
The help and support available to people with life-changing injuries has changed dramatically over the years, from highly advanced and ‘clever’ prosthetics to a steadily improving understanding of the debilitating condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) which is treated at Bath Mineral Hospital. We run seminars on the condition and I am regularly invited to speak at conferences, including one run by CRPS UK which is a patient support group.
On the legal side, the way personal injury (and other) cases are dealt with has also changed significantly – but for the worse. With solicitors now having to charge fixed fees for their work, many have moved away from personal injury cases altogether or will only take on the highest value claims. Withy King is now the only firm left in Bath which will represent clients with compensation claims worth less than £25k.
In addition, it’s been sad to see the steady closure of many of our local law courts, although I’m pleased to say that for now, the one in Bath is still open. These closures, together with huge hikes in court fees, the up-front costs which law firms have to shoulder and the prescribed budgets they now have to work to, have deterred many solicitors from practicing personal injury work.
What misconceptions do people have about your profession?
There are many misconceptions but here are two: Firstly, that we have a compensation culture with numerous fraudulent claimants. In my experience, this is hardly ever true. We work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis so every potential claim is properly risk assessed and medical histories are thoroughly checked. The point of a personal injury claim is to try to help the person get back to where they were, before they were injured, which is why the compensation is needed, to cover their medical care and rehabilitation.
Secondly, that personal injury solicitors are the same as claims management firms who run advertising campaigns encouraging people to sue for ‘trips and slips’. In reality, there is a world of difference between us. As solicitors, we are experts in our field and our work is highly regulated. Our role extends far beyond the claim to establishing a relationship with the individual and their family, working with many different experts and rehabilitation providers to achieve the best results.
"With his new hand and counselling, my client is now looking to return to work and contribute to family life again."
Any particular career highlights?
Through my work, I see the psychological as well as physical impact injuries have on people and those nearest to them so it’s always rewarding when we can help to make things better. I am currently bringing a claim on behalf of a father who lost two fingers and part of the palm of his hand in an incident. The injury prevented him from continuing with his job, he became depressed and struggled to carry out many of the tasks he’d done before. I found an expert who was able to construct a bespoke, electronically-powered partial hand prosthesis for my client which he is absolutely delighted with and has described as life-changing. With his new hand and counselling, my client is now looking to return to work and contribute to family life again.
What was your first job?
Waitressing at the Bunch of Carrots pub in Herefordshire.
Any secret ambitions?
To find a solution to balancing busy work and family lives.
First port of call for coffee with clients?
The Society Café in Kingsmead Square.
Best bit about working in Bath?
The beautiful architecture and the great choice of restaurants.
Anything about you that might surprise us?
I’ve done a parachute jump (and enjoyed the bit in the middle, between jumping and landing) – and I almost missed my job interview at Withy King 24 years ago because my train got stuck in a tunnel and I arrived over two hours late.
I live in Bath with my husband, two children and a miniature Schnauzer and am supported by my children’s two amazing grannies. I work with a great team and couldn’t do without my PA, ‘Magic Janice’.
This article originally appeared in Bath Life Magazine. p126