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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May 2005, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
No Win, No Fee
Solicitors Andrew Twambley and Martin Cockx
Partners Cockx (left) and Twambley say compensation culture is a myth
Personal injury is big business. Last year the insurance industry paid out over 7bn in compensation.

This new, five-part observational documentary series lifts the lid on the no-win-no-fee industry through the colourful characters that work in Manchester-based Amelans and the stories of the clients they fight for.

For six months the BBC was given access to a firm of personal injury solicitors that specialise in slips, trips, crashes and bashes.

NO WIN NO FEE
BBC TWO - Wednesdays at 1900 BST
Most of the staff have nicknames: "Buddha", "Bird" and "Bear", and also James "the Grazer" Hough.

Partner Andrew Twambley told the BBC News website that his staff were initially apprehensive of the cameras.

"At first, they were watching what was said and to whom.

"Two weeks in, we forgot that they were there and they started to get some relaxed and interesting footage.

"Whenever we turned around, there would be a camera and soundman creeping up behind, like the sniper in the 'Day of the Jackal'."

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

James has just taken a call from Carol, a Geordie country and western singer who, during the climax of her show in a club, got shot in the arm by a canon. She's likely to get a few thousand pounds for her injury, but if Carol goes ahead with the claim she'll be ostracised by the Country and Western community.

With 4,000 from four past personal injury claims, Michael Holland has been dubbed "the unluckiest man in Rochdale". His fifth claim follows a whiplash injury after a rear end shunt.

But it is soon clear that No Win No Fee business does not come without risks: Amelans lose a case worth 50,000 in the court of appeal.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

It is a question that has always troubled the public about the personal injury (PI) business: If there is no fee if the client loses and they get 100% of the compensation if they win, how do the lawyers make any money?

In this episode the stark reality becomes apparent - after winning the client their compensation, PI firms have to then fight for their own costs. Andrew Twambley - the hard-nosed boss of Amelans - explains:

"We agree on 14 days, but if they haven't paid (costs) by 14 days, on the 15th day we make sure that we chase them, and if they need it up 'em, then they get it up 'em."

The person who "puts it up 'em" is Paul "Buddha" Kimber, former British judo champion. Educated at Staffordshire Polytechnic, he's up against what Twambley calls "some white-wigged toffy nosed barrister from London who's educated in Austria."

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Manchester City Council spends 2m a year fighting personal injury claims - mainly slips and trips on its pavements. It's no surprise therefore that councillor Paul Murphy regards Andrew Twambley of Amelans as the enemy.

"I've never held people like that in the highest esteem. Put it this way, he's not on my Christmas card list."

In this episode the two sides come together in a toe-to-toe showdown. Councillor Murphy wants lawyers like Twambley to have some moral obligation for certain claims. For example, there are the three members of a Manchester family who all fell over the same raised bit of pavement outside their house and were all witnesses for each other.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

A regular stalwart for the tabloids are the bizarre stories that emerge from Britain's alleged compensation culture. Last Autumn one newspaper branded Carlisle teacher Sean Halfpenny "bonkers" for making pupils wear goggles while playing conkers.

Andrew Twambley - the boss of Amelans - pays the school a visit in an effort to change the image of his industry. But Mr Halfpenny is having none of it:

"You're my enemy," he taunts Twambley. "You've changed my job considerably. What you represent has changed the culture of this school."

Also in the programme, Amelans are in the courts fighting for a top up fee, in addition to what they are already paid, if they win a risky case. The outcome could have an impact on the 7bn industry.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

In the concluding episode of the series that goes behind the scenes at personal injury firm Amelans, the company's solicitor, Jenny Palin, makes a claim against her colleague, Phil Cookson, for a whiplash injury sustained in his car. Phil, however, is more worried about the damage to his beloved XR3i Escort.

The programme also follows the case of John Sutherland, who has been run over by a joy-rider. The incident was caught on CCTV but the amount John gets for his injuries very much depends on whether his dodgy knee is the result of the accident or of an operation he had 10 years ago.

Keeping the company afloat on scraps of business is stressful and Amelans's boss, Andrew Twambley, is suffering. He has just been diagnosed as having a heart condition and needs an operation to sort out the problem.

Although Twambley brushes it off with characteristic aplomb, Martin Cockx, his business partner, is touchingly worried. After all, Andrew is also his best friend.


No Win, No Fee began, a five-part series, began on BBC TWO on Wednesday, 11 May. It goes out every week at 1900 BST until Wednesday 1 June 2005.


SEE ALSO
Firms warned over accident claims
10 Nov 04 |  UK Politics
UK compensation culture 'a myth'
10 Dec 04 |  Business
Pupils wear goggles for conkers
04 Oct 04 |  Cumbria

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