Compensation hotline planned by Law Society

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Law Society will launch a telephone hotline service next month to give free legal advice on injury compensation cases.

It warned yesterday that claiming compensation through recovery agents rather than lawyers could cost more and abet an illegal activity.

People injured in accidents are often approached by claims or recovery agents who offer to help them obtain compensation in return for a share of the payout. The Law Society said many agents promised 'no win, no fee', 'risk-free guarantee' and 'huge sums of compensation' to tout for business from claimants.

It said anyone encouraging a lawsuit and assisting a claimant on the condition that the compensation payout be shared could be guilty of maintenance and champerty, and be jailed for seven years.

Newly elected society chairman Wong Kwai-huen said there was no guarantee such middlemen would represent the best interests of clients.

'Suppose you are entitled to HK$1 million compensation. These agents may settle on HK$300,000 on your behalf, and pocket their profit, without caring about your benefits,' he said.

Ludwig Ng Siu-wing, chairman of a Law Society publicity subcommittee, said the society would take steps to educate the public on the proper way to engage lawyers for injury compensation suits.

He said the telephone hotline service would start on June 15.

'We now have 150 lawyers from the Law Society who are experienced in compensation matters who have volunteered to participate in this scheme,' Mr Ng said. 'We promise that a volunteer lawyer will contact the client within one working day of his telephone call, and will provide at least one hour of free legal advice.'

He said a seminar would be held on June 16 to explain the possible consequences of engaging recovery agents.

Mr Ng said the Law Society would also co-operate with government departments, such as the Social Welfare Department, Labour Department and the Hospital Authority, to deter recovery agents from touting for business in hospitals and Labour Department offices.

Mr Wong said that with the increasing economic integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, a key focus of the Law Society was to open up more business opportunities for members and close co-operation and exchange with mainland lawyers was an important element in meeting that objective.

He said the society planned to hold a joint directors' meeting soon with the Law Society of Shenzhen to explore areas of mutual interest.

An exchange session involving lawyers from Hong Kong, Macau, the mainland and Taiwan was also being planned, Mr Wong said.