Please do not wait to get legal advice until it is too late!
It is not surprising that most people wait to see a lawyer until they feel that they need to. Usually they only seek legal advice once things go pear shaped (see my earlier article). The problem is that by the time they’ve spoken to a lawyer, they realise that they waited too long.
Some recent examples from my practice:
- A lady suffering from persistent bursitis of her shoulder wanted to make a claim against her income protection insurer. That was all very well, until she revealed to me, that a year ago her insurer paid her a nominal lump sum, which she did not realise released the insurer from all further liability! If only she hadn’t waited to get legal advice, or had sought advice before she signed the deed, she would have had a good prospect of claiming over $500,000 from the insurer.
- A client saw me 29 days after he been unfairly dismissed. A claim with the Fair Work Commission must be made 28 days from the date of dismissal. If only he hadn’t waited to get legal advice, he would have had a legitimate claim against his former employer. The Commission may accept a late application, but only in exceptional circumstances and none of these apply in this case.
- A client met with me to discuss a shareholder dispute. Given his minority shareholding in the company, his voting rights were limited and he felt that the other shareholders were acting against his interests. I was relieved when he showed me a shareholder’s agreement, only to see that it was a one page handwritten document, which would have better served my cat’s litter. If only he had obtained legal advice about a shareholder’s deed, he may have had a clear document setting out his rights and obligations and possibly one which gave him some voting rights. He will likely need to issue expensive legal proceedings to have his case determined.
- There are some brilliant builders and then there are some dodgy ones. A client had a $250,000 claim against a dodgy builder for serious structural defects. When the builder was doing well financially, she procrastinated seeking legal advice. The builder went into liquidation recently and although thankfully she can still make a claim, she is limited to the amount of the building insurance taken out by the builder for her home, which is capped at $100,000. If only she had sought legal advice when the builder was well funded, she would have had a prospect of being awarded damages for the full amount of her loss.
- For months, I had been telling a client who had terminal cancer, to draft a will before she passed away. She assured me that she would do this. Sadly, she passed away recently with an old will that will almost certainly be challenged. If only…
The list goes on.
Lawyers are expensive, which is why people usually only see them when they feel they have no choice. The problem is that this is reactive behaviour rather than proactive. However, the investment made obtaining early legal advice may pay dividends for in excess of the amount invested.