WHEN Brenda Mitchell decided to quit personal injury firm Digby Brown in 2010 she knew she wanted to do something different.

Though at the time she had not decided what her next move would be, it did not take her long to make up her mind.

“When I left I was passionate about two things,” she said.

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“I thought about the clients that I was half way through cases for and I realised I have a huge passion for people and seeing them through what is often the most difficult period of their life.

“I also knew that I loved motorcycling and cycling. I thought if I could do something that combined those passions I’d be okay.”

Having approached Thompsons Solicitors, where her career had begun, Ms Mitchell got the backing of her old partners and with them set up Motorcycle Law Scotland (MLS) as a joint venture.

Six months later Cycle Law Scotland (CLS) followed and, having set up Road Traffic Accident Law Scotland (RTA) as a standalone firm in 2013, Ms Mitchell now controls the two original brands as well as Pedestrian Law Scotland under the one overarching banner.

Although the pedestrian-focused arm is small in comparison to MLS and CLS, all three brands remain committed to Ms Mitchell’s one fundamental aim: to “look after vulnerable road users”.

“People who are involved in road traffic accidents tend to suffer pretty catastrophic injuries,” she explained.

“For motorcycle accidents it tends to be two of three limbs that are affected. They come to me to get compensation, usually against the driver [that caused the accident].”

As with most mainstream personal injury firms RTA funds cases on behalf of clients, typically shelling out in the region of £10,000 to build a case around reports from everyone from medical experts to civil engineers.

While the firm will only get repaid and be able to charge a fee as and when the case is won, Ms Mitchell said the idea that this type of business model constitutes ambulance chasing “is quite wrong”.

“It allows individuals to get access to justice without taking on the financial risk,” she said.

“You need firms that will stand in their place against the insurance industry.”

This is important, she said, because “insurance companies tend to want to put some blame on the cyclist or motorcyclist”.

This – and how important the fight for compensation is - was brought home to her when she represented an 18-year old motorcyclist who had been in a collision with a milk lorry.

“He was in a pretty horrific accident with a milk tanker that was reversing into a farm road at about midnight - he went into the side of it and lost his lower leg,” she said.

“He was with a previous firm and was offered £9,000 in part payment towards a new limb. He came to me with eight weeks to go before it would become time barred. We took the case on and had an almighty battle in court.”

That fight involved Ms Mitchell’s client initially having to accept 40 per cent of the blame for the accident before the driver’s insurance company appealed and he had to accept 60 per cent of the liability.

Despite this, because they had gone to court at all the amount of compensation the client received was lifted from the original offer of £9,000 to £350,000.

This, said Ms Mitchell, is why she measures success by how much she can impact on clients’ lives rather than how big her score is against the insurance industry.

“The best thing about that case is that he went to college with the compensation money and became a motorcycle mechanic and now has his own garage,” she said.

In any case, as a chance conversation with advocate Paul Cullen - now Court of Session judge and Scottish Law Commission chairman Lord Pentland – brought home to her, when it comes to personal injury work, losing is almost as important as winning.

“Not every case is successful. We had a recent one that we fought all the way but it wasn’t successful” Ms Mitchell said.

“I recall a while back running into Paul Cullen and he asked how I was getting on and I said ‘great, I haven’t lost a case yet’.

“He said ‘you’re not doing your job properly’ and he was right - if you don’t lose then you could be cherry-picking.”

Or, to put it another way, chasing ambulances.