Top union firm Thompsons is waiving all upfront payments from clients, to take part in a scheme which will extend personal injury cover to more than five million Britons.
Unison, Britain's biggest union, is extending its free personal injury scheme for accidents outside the workplace to the families of its 1.3 million members.
The scheme, which is the first of its kind, has been prompted by the Government's civil justice reforms and will see the union feed cases to Thompsons' offices throughout the country.
Thompsons partner Tom Jones says: “They will be run as conditional fee agreements (CFAs), with no cost to the individual.
“There will be no upfront charges or deductions from damages. We will take responsibility for the insurance premium, the investigation costs and any disbursements.”
He did not expand on where the money would come from, saying simply: “That's our problem.”
Law firms usually manage the risks of CFAs by charging clients a bigger than usual percentage of the winnings – known as a success fee.
Jones says Thompsons has a success rate of more than 90 per cent and will make its money from claiming costs and recovering success fees.
Unison assistant general secretary Roger Poole says that, in the past, workers' time and money has been wasted by solicitors giving bad advice, whereas Unison-led cases had a 95 per cent success rate.
“What the trade unions are trying to do here is get good legal practice so that people can trust what lawyers are saying to them,” he says.
Geoff Hoon, Minister of State for the Lord Chancellor's Department, says: “Unison members and their families will be early winners in this new world. Other unions should take note.”