Authorities warn on agents in injury cases A solicitor and a claim agent appeared in court yesterday accused of conspiring to encourage a woman to launch a claim for compensation for her son, injured in a traffic accident. In the first prosecution of its kind, the agent is also accused of having shared a portion of the compensation that the victim received as a result of an out-of-court settlement of the lawsuit. The charges were laid under the law against maintenance and champerty, which prohibits uninterested parties from encouraging others to launch a lawsuit and making a bargain to take a cut of any proceeds. Eastern Court heard that solicitor Winnie Lo Wai-yan and agent Cheung Oi-ping allegedly engaged in a scheme to help Wong Siu-ying make a personal injury claim on behalf of her son, Yeung Chun-kit, in the High Court between 2001 and 2005. The pair is jointly charged with one count of conspiracy to maintain the claim and one count of perjury in relation to preparing a sworn statement in May 2005. Cheung, 38, also faces two charges of champerty for making the unlawful bargain with Ms Wong to lodge the claim, which took place at the Prince of Wales Hospital and in a flat in Tin Ping Estate, Sheung Shui. Cheung faces another count of theft in relation to HK$861,652 she allegedly obtained from Ms Wong on October 13, 2003. No plea has been taken and the case was adjourned to July 29 for hearing in the District Court. The case stemmed from a claim launched by Ms Wong on behalf of Mr Yeung, who was in a coma with severe head injuries following a traffic accident in May 2001. In September 2003, the case was settled out of court for HK$3.5 million, to be paid to Mr Yeung. But it came to court three years later in a hearing to determine how the money paid to the comatose victim should be administered. In his judgment in that case, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon noted that Ms Wong had been approached by a consultant at the Prince of Wales Hospital in 2001 and an agreement had been reached by which the consultant would receive 25 per cent of the compensation. The judge commented in his judgment that the deal apparently 'infringes the law of champerty and maintenance'. Meanwhile, the government yesterday warned the public to beware of touting activities by recovery agents offering to help clients seek accident compensation on a 'no win, no charge' basis. 'In their advertisements the recovery agents claim they will help injured people pursue claims for a fee chargeable only when they are successful in recovering damages,' the warning says. 'However, pursuant to agreements, the victims would have to pay the agents a substantial portion of the compensation obtained from the defendants. Unlawfully maintaining or sharing the profits of legal proceedings can be a crime subject to jail terms and fines.' It also advises the public to seek proper legal advice in pursuing their claims for personal injuries as such activities could jeopardise their legal rights to compensation. Law Society president Lester Huang said in a statement that victims should seek legal advice from solicitors directly, or obtain assistance from the Legal Aid Department or the Social Welfare Department.