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Iris Becx
VU University Amsterdam
Nieke Elbers
Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement
Arno Akkermans
Kiliaan van Wees
Sonja Leferink

This paper examines the added value of legal representation in the (extrajudicial) civil law process of victims following a traffic accident in the Netherlands. In 60% of these personal injury cases, a legal representative is involved. The first research question is why a traffic accident victim decides to hire a legal representative such as a lawyer, or why a decision is made to handle the personal injury claim themselves. The second research question is: what are the effects of hiring a legal representative? Our study used a mixed methods approach. Based on a large dataset, we quantitatively measured the length of the process, amount of financial compensation, financial satisfaction and overall satisfaction. Furthermore, 30 in-depth interviews were held with traffic accident victims to map their experiences with the legal proceedings. It was found that the more serious the injury, the more victims chose legal representation. In cases involving minor injuries, victims usually do not make a conscious decision for or against representation. Furthermore, it was found that those victims who had representation had a longer legal process, received more financial compensation, but were overall on average less satisfied than the victims who had no legal representation. On average, victims place higher value on a personal, emphatic approach by either their representative or the insurer than a large amount of financial compensation. It was also found that victims have little knowledge of all aspects of the legal proceedings, making representatives act as guides through the legal landscape.

Dr Nieke Elbers is a postdoc researcher at the VU University Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). She is an expert in the field of victimology, procedural justice, and alternative dispute resolution. Since 2006, she conducts research on the impact of legal procedures on the wellbeing of litigants. She is interested in how professionals can contribute to victim empowerment. She uses a multidisciplinary approach. She graduated at Maastricht University and Sussex University (Psychology), did her PhD at the VU University Amsterdam (Law), and a traineeship at University of Toronto (Work Disability). After her PhD, she worked for 2.5 years at the University of Sydney (Medical School). In her research, she closely collaborates with (inter)national academics, policy makers, lawyers and health professionals. Besides her work as a researcher, Nieke is a neighbourhood mediator.

Iris Becx is a PhD-candidate at the VU University Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). Her research is on victims and wrongdoers of traffic accidents and medical incidents. From a restorative justice perspective, she looks at the roles of the two involved parties, but also at the role of lawyers, health care organizations and insurance companies. By using both qualitative and quantitative methods, she explores themes such as litigant wellbeing in legal procedures, apologies and procedural justice. Iris graduated at Maastricht University (BA, arts and cultures) and Tilburg University (MSc, Victimology). During her studies, she volunteered at Victim Support the Netherlands.

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