Trade union lawyers Thompsons and print union GPMU have attacked no win no fee personal injury claims management firms for conning people into agreements that can cost them more than the compensation they receive.

The charge comes after GPMU member Terence Pringle, who received £1,250 in compensation for injuries he received in a car crash, was told he owed over £2,000 to the collapsed personal injury claims firm The Accident Group (TAG).

The debt is made up of a 'loan' for nearly £1,000 with interest of 15.9% APR, a 'document fee' of £20, and £799 disbursements.

From day one Mr Pringle, from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, owed the 'no win no fee' firm an astonishing £1,381 which after £25 a month interest was added became £2,288.99.

Thompsons Solicitors services were cost-free

Mr Pringle's case is a shocking example of how vulnerable injured people use claims firms - which advertise on day time TV, on the internet and in daily tabloid and local papers - and end up with bills for money they do not know they owe.

His case came to light when he went to Thompsons Solicitors, the GPMU law firm, for advice after an accident at work unconnected to the road traffic accident.

Had he used the union's legal scheme instead of TAG for his road traffic accident he would not have had to pay a penny in legal costs.

Mr Pringle said: "When I was told I could have used the union scheme for my road traffic claim I just went white. TAG promised to get me compensation for my accident at no cost to me. I can't believe that I've ended up owing them more than what they got for me."

Union membership gives best legal protection

Tony Dubbins, GPMU general secretary added: "Unlike claims management firms, union legal schemes do not charge members a penny, are not profit driven and do not go bust because of the ups and downs of the insurance market. When they say they are no win no fee it is, frankly, a cruel lie. It is a disgrace that there is no regulation to prevent them preying on vulnerable people and conning union members into using them. At the end of the day trade union membership gives the best and safest legal protection money can buy."

Mick Laffey of Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle who is representing Mr Pringle in his workplace accident claim said: "Terence's damages were swallowed up by his costs so they took every penny of his damages and then sent him a bill for the outstanding £650. He would have been better off not bothering at all and setting fire to £500 of his own money."