We can only estimate the number of perfectly valid personal injury claims which are not pursued. Whether as a consequence of misplaced loyalty, or a simple misunderstanding of the laws, many perfectly legitimate claims will fall by the wayside. However, if you do decide to pursue a personal injury claim there are various actions you can take to strengthen your claim.
It would obviously depend upon the type of accident, and the injuries received, but for example with road traffic accidents there may well be numerous witnesses to the event. If you’re able, or if perhaps have others with you, you should look to collate contact details of any potential witnesses. Even if the police are called, and obviously put together their own detailed account, additional witness statements will only strengthen your personal injury claim.
There is also the possibility that witnesses will have seen other relevant issues surrounding your accident which may well be useful in court. In some circumstances, especially more serious injuries, it may be difficult to secure witness contact details in the immediate aftermath. Unfortunately, once the crowds have dispersed and witnesses gone on their way it can be difficult to track them down. So, if there are third parties with you then ask them to help you make contact with witnesses to contact at a later date.
In the immediate aftermath of an accident it can be very difficult to take in your surroundings and exactly what is going on. Even if you are fully conscious and alert there is every chance that shock might kick in and have an impact on your ability to recall details of the situation. Therefore, where possible it is useful to take photographs of various angles of the accident, injuries and the location. These photographs can very often clarify weather conditions at the time, the exact location of the accident and the immediate aftermath and be priceless if a claim goes to court!
When you consider the number of people who now carry mobile phones, photographs and video evidence are very easy to obtain. We live in a strange world where many photographs and videos are shared on social media which can also be used as evidence in court. In this scenario you can’t have enough photographs of the incident.
Details Of Medical Attention
It would again depend upon the type of accident and the degree of injuries but where medical attention is required immediately, or in the aftermath, these details will be very useful in court. Where there are physical injuries the victim would likely be treated by first aiders then potentially moved to hospital and then any after-care. It would be useful to keep a record of your own medical appointments, injuries, treatment and comments from your doctor. You will also be able to use medical records written by those who have treated you which together with your own account can create a very strong line of evidence.
It is also worth noting that while the vast majority of personal injury claims revolve around accidents and immediately visible injuries this is not always the case. For example, those using pneumatic drills in years gone by were just recently able to claim for vibration white finger which is a recognised medical condition – as a consequence of using such equipment. There are definitive medical tests which can show the origins of such injuries to a degree which is accepted by the courts.
You will probably have noticed that the recent trend for court cases involving events which happened years ago can in isolation be difficult to prove. The key to unlocking successful prosecutions in this scenario is finding a pattern, numerous victims who have the same account in vivid detail. To a certain extent the emergence of historic patterns showing negligence by one or more third parties, potentially employers, local authorities, etc, can add more steel to a case. It is easier to defend one claim on the exact detail and potential liability but more difficult when numerous victims step forward with the same recollection of events.
This type of pattern is probably more relevant for accidents in the workplace showing perhaps a lack of training, inadequate safety guidelines or a total disregard for the health and well-being of employees. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 all employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and well-being of their employees. Failure to fulfil such obligations can lead to legal action and potentially large fines.
Detail Any Impact On Your Career
The knock-on effect from injuries received as a consequence of negligence by third parties does not have to be immediate. For example, in theory, time off work recuperating should not impact your career but there are occasions when it can do. If for example, you have missed out on bonus payments as a consequence of your injuries or perhaps you had to curtail your working life these are financial costs which you can claim. The idea that personal injury compensation just covers the immediate aftermath of your life post the event is wrong.
Perhaps one of the more obvious scenarios would be that of a professional sports person who was injured to an extent that their career was cut short. It may well be possible to calculate potential loss of earnings going forward and add the figures to the compensation claim. As you will be able to claim medical expenses, directly related to the injuries, going forward, there is the potential to do the same with loss of earnings.
The vast majority of us tend to think of personal injury claims as relating to physical injuries which can be seen to “heal”. The reality is that the psychological impact of a physical injury or some form of psychological trauma can last for many years to come. Indeed, evidence shows that severe psychological trauma can change the characteristics of an individual, impact their family life and the quality of their future life. Quite how you put a value on this change in a person’s life and lifestyle is not an exact science but there are ways and means of calculating compensation.
When looking to clarify the psychological impact of an accident/injury this would likely involve medical professionals with expertise in this area. They will be able to document the changes in an individual’s lifestyle, thought pattern and even family life. Direct evidence from the victim together with supporting evidence from medical professionals can be pivotal in any claim for psychological injury.
Diary Of Events
At the end of the day, whether talking to medical professionals, psychologists or others offering help in the aftermath of an accident nobody really knows what is going on inside the head of the victim. Therefore, in the immediate aftermath of an accident/injury it may prove very useful further down the line if you could keep a diary of your actions, thoughts and issues. On their own, a diary of events may not be enough to sway legal opinion but when backed by medical experts and other parties, it can prove to be a useful brick in the wall of your legal action. In some ways this can also prove beneficial to the victim themselves, allowing them to look back at the immediate aftermath of their accident and see how far they have progressed in their recovery/recuperation.
There may be incidents involving serious injuries where the victim may not be able to keep such records. In this instance, if possible, a friend, family member or close associate might be able to record their own observations and thoughts about the victim’s life.
Lack Of Training Procedures
As we touched on above, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 put in place a legal framework detailing the obligations of employers regarding their employees. While this act takes into account everything from safety in the workplace to maintenance, appropriate use of personnel to safety signage, one of the main aspects is training. The days of initial training after joining a company then being “left to your own devices” have long gone.
Training in the workplace is now a continuous never-ending obligation used to update employees with regards to new safety regulations, potential issues and the legal obligations of both employers and employees. This all needs to be documented with evidence that individuals have received the relevant training going forward. To say that an employee simply “missed” a training session is not good enough and alternative arrangements need to be made to bring that employee up to speed.
Record All Additional Expenditure
While it will obviously depend upon the degree of injuries received there is the potential to claim back all historic and future additional expenditure. This may include expenditure such as required changes to your home, transport expenses, carer costs as well as the obvious medical spend going forward. It is therefore essential that you record all additional expenditure directly (or in some cases indirectly) related to the accident and your long-term recovery/recuperation.
The courts are appreciative of valid expenditure and, assuming there is no obvious attempt to milk the system, likely to look favourably on any claim. This is where your personal injury claims solicitor will come into play, offering advice and guidance on what to claim and what not to claim.
Appointing A Personal Injury Solicitor
When you break down the process of applying for personal injury compensation it tends to look fairly straightforward. All you need to present is a detailed account of events, medical attention received, physical/psychological and financial impact and your claim. In reality there are various legal necessities which need to be adhered to, evidence presented in a specific manner and compensation claims reined in to include only valid expenses.
As a consequence, you should look to appoint a personal injury claims solicitor at the earliest opportunity. They will advise you of the strength of your case, how to move forward, attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement and maximise any compensation. As the majority of personal injury claims solicitors tend to work on a No Win No Fee basis this avoids any significant upfront legal costs. The fact that the laws can change on a regular basis is also another factor to take into consideration.