The Complete Guide to Personal Injury Claims

May 28, 2019, By Slater Heelis

If you suffer an injury, illness or damage due to somebody else’s negligence, you could be entitled to claim for compensation.

Through this process, you could be awarded compensation for damages or injuries caused to you by a responsible party. The compensation will then be paid out by them or a third party, such as an insurance company.

As a claimant, you could be in this position due to a number of scenarios:

  • Road traffic accidents
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Accidents at work or on public property
  • Medical negligence
  • Fatal or life-changing injuries
  • Defective products

The basic principle of personal injury is that someone has a duty of care to you.

This will have been breached, causing injury to you.Personal injury law can be complicated. However, with the support from an approved solicitor, making a claim could be straightforward.

A solicitor will be on your side and can assist in dealings with insurers and medical specialists, ensuring your circumstances are fully considered.

This guide will answer three key questions potential claimants have. We’ll provide a more detailed answer to each question later in the guide, but a summarised version is provided below for those who don’t wish to read the whole guide.

How do I make a personal injury claim?

First, you must find a solicitor. Once they agree to represent you, they will send a claim letter to the defendant, or respondent, outlining the claim. This could then result in settlement or court proceedings if the respondent denies negligence.

How is personal injury compensation calculated?

Personal injury compensation can be difficult to calculate. Your solicitor will offer their view during your first consultation. Compensation depends on special and general damages, so it’s important to keep a record of everything in your claim.

How do you calculate loss of earnings for personal injury?

Loss of earnings fall under general damages – they have a fixed value. The court will look at your monthly wage for a minimum of three months before the accident. It will take an average, and then multiply it by your period of absence.

The step-by-step guide to making a personal injury claim

1. Gather evidence at the scene of the accident

At the scene of your accident, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible. This includes identifying witnesses, as well as the respondent. Take down names, phone numbers and addresses of all potential witnesses. Keep a copy for your own records and your solicitor’s.

Take photographs or videos of the scene of the accident, your injuries, any property damage and the environment. All of these will be important to your claim.

2. Report your accident to the relevant parties

Report your accident to the authorities and your insurance company as soon as possible. Failing to do so could mean your claim may be denied.

If you are part of trade union at your employment, this would be another important contact, as they can assist with your claim.

3. Seek medical support

After the accident, it is important that you seek medical attention for any pain, no matter how small. Ask your doctor for a medical report that states the injuries you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.

Explain all the symptoms to them, mental and physical.

4. Seek legal advice

You should consult a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s personal injury or clinical negligence scheme. They will give details of solicitors on these schemes.

Your first consultation will often be free of charge.

5. Keep records

It is crucial at this point that you keep a log of everything that happened during and after the accident. You can then outline the problems you have faced in daily life and any medication or physiotherapy you’ve had. Keep any receipts for costs you’ve suffered.

This could be invaluable, should your claim go to trial.

6. Attend a legal consultation

For personal injury claims, you must begin legal proceedings within three years of your accident. There are some exceptions to this rule.

During your first consultation, your solicitor will establish details of your case. To do so, they will need to know the date of the accident, where and how it happened. They will also require the contact details for any witnesses.

The details of your injuries, medical diagnosis and treatment you’ve received will be vital. Finally, if you are a trade union member or you have a legal expenses insurance policy, this could entitle you to a reduced-cost representation.

These details are why it is essential to keep a record of everything during and following the accident.Your solicitor may also need to know your loss of earnings or any other financial expenses due to your injury. They will require documents relating to any insurance policies you have to see whether legal costs will be covered.

Finally, any evidence that could support your claim, including documents from previous accidents in similar circumstances, will be important.

Once you explain the circumstances of your accident and injury, the solicitor will judge whether your case is likely to succeed and estimate your compensation. They could, depending on your injury, refer you to a medical specialist.

They will then explain the legal processes and how to fund your case. It is important that you ask your solicitor to send you a letter that details the advice they have given you.

7. Send a claim letter

The first step that your solicitor will take is to send a claim letter to the person, people or company you are holding responsible – the respondent. This letter will explain the details of your injury and what happened.

If you need expert opinions to support your claim, your solicitor will make a recommendation.

The respondent must reply to the letter within a fixed time period. It will often be no longer than three months. The reply must state whether they accept or deny liability. If they accept, your solicitor will attempt to settle outside of court.

8. Make a settlement offer

Your solicitor will tell you the value of your claim and ask how much compensation you are willing to accept. They will ask if you want to make an ‘offer to settle’, or Part 36 offer, and how this could affect you.

They will then send a letter to the respondent. If they reply reasonably, a figure can be agreed, and the claim settled. In some cases, the respondent can reply with their own offer. Your solicitor will advise you if this happens.

9. Go to court

If you cannot settle out of court, your solicitor will advise you on starting legal action.

If the respondent replies to the claim letter denying liability, your solicitor may advise you to go to court.

Once you agree to proceed to trial, your case will go before a judge. The court will inform you of the date of a hearing. Your solicitor will prepare you for trial and any actions you need to take.

Compensation and Costs

Compensation

Once you consult a solicitor, they will assess your case and estimate the compensation you could secure.There are criteria that need to be satisfied to receive compensation. The first is that you have suffered an injury as a result of an accident that wasn’t your fault.

Secondly, there is, at least, a third party where the fault can be attached. Essentially, the respondent had a duty of care to you that they breached, causing an injury.

For calculating compensation, two categories of damages are considered.

The first is special damages. They are items with a fixed value, such as your loss of earnings and medical expenses.Second, are general damages. These do not have a fixed value but must be assessed. They include pain or lifestyle changes, now or in the future.

You won’t know the compensation you could receive until negotiations begin between your solicitor and the respondent.Ultimately, your injury or illness, and its impact on your life will be the greatest factor.

Costs

Legal costs can be expensive to pay for, but there are two structures to help you.

First is conditional fee agreement, or ‘no-win, no-fee’. Therefore, if you lose, you don’t pay your solicitor’s legal fees.If you win your case, your solicitor may be paid by a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation. This is a ‘success fee’.

The second structure is your solicitor may ask you to take out insurance to cover costs, or your insurer has legal expenses cover.

Many insurance companies have a legal expenses clause attached to them. You don’t have to settle a claim through their legal team. Through a personal injury solicitor, you could win much larger compensation.

What if I lose?

If you are unsuccessful, you will be expected to cover the respondent’s costs. This is also the case with ‘no-win, no-fee’ agreements.

Insurers will often cover the costs if you are unsuccessful, but there is also the Qualified One-Way Cost Shifting policy. This means that even if you lose your claim, you will not have to pay the respondent’s costs, unless you are found of Fundamental Dishonesty.

Personal injury claims can sound confusing and daunting, but if you follow these steps, you should secure the compensation you deserve.

To learn more about personal injury claims today, visit Slater Heelis, or call 0161 969 3131