As you may already know, if you’re injured in an accident that was not your fault, you could be entitled to compensation if you file a personal injury claim. While the process might seem quite straightforward on the face of things, there’s a fair bit of work involved in the claims process. This guide will examine the stages of a personal injury claim and explain how each step could influence the eventual outcome.
If you wish to seek damages in a personal injury claim, we can help. We offer a no-obligation initial consultation and free legal advice to make it easier for you to decide whether to file a claim. If your case is strong enough, one of our solicitors may agree to represent you. If they do, they’ll manage all of the stages of the claim on your behalf and they’ll do so on a No Win, No Fee basis.
To learn more about how personal injury claims work, please continue reading. If you’d like to discuss your own claim with a specialist, please call us on 0800 652 1345 today.
Appointing a legal representative
The first thing you may wish to do is appoint a personal injury solicitor to represent you during your claim. In our opinion, you have a better chance of being compensated fairly if you have a specialist on your side.
Importantly, you don’t have to use a solicitor that’s appointed by someone else. For example, if you are involved in a car crash, your insurer may want to appoint a solicitor from their own panel.
On occasion, you may be cold-called by a claims management company or legal representatives who have heard about your potential case and would like to discuss the issue in more detail. Remember, you do not have to take on a representative just because they contacted you, it is up to you who presents your case and you should be wary of taking up random offers without further investigation.
Our team of solicitors specialising in personal injury claims and has over 30 years of experience in handling claims for our clients. To see if they could help you, please feel free to contact our advisors.
Determining who was responsible for your personal injury
When you contact us, the first thing we’ll do is try to establish who you should be claiming personal injury compensation against. This is an important part of the claims process as it’s not always obvious. For example, if you slipped on a wet floor in a shop, you may need to determine whether your claim should be against the retailer or the cleaning contractor.
Before our solicitors take on claims, they’ll check whether:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care; and
- Their negligence caused an accident; and
- You were injured during the accident (or made ill).
Some examples of who could be responsible for your injuries include:
- Employers for workplace accidents.
- Local authorities for falls on public footpaths caused by poor maintenance.
- Drivers or other road users in road traffic accidents.
- Restaurants, cafes or bars for food poisoning or allergic reaction claims.
- Package holiday providers for holiday accident abroad claims.
- Product manufacturers for product defect claims.
These are just a few examples of who could be sued in a personal injury claim. If you’d like to check who you should claim against, please contact our team.
The Pre-action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims is a set of rules designed by the Ministry of Justice to try and ensure that all parties involved in a claim provide information to each other at the right time. There are different protocols for different types of claims but they typically follow a similar route. Over the coming sections of this guide, we’ll look at the steps that are involved in fast-track personal injury claims (those valued below £25,000).
- Letter of notification.
At this early stage, a letter is sent by the claimant to tell the defendant that a claim is going to be made against them. The letter does not need to include all of the facts or evidence relating to the claim. The defendant or their insurer has 14 days to acknowledge receipt of the letter of notification.
- Medical treatment (rehabilitation).
Both parties must address any immediate medical needs of the claimant. Doing so could improve the defendant’s prognosis which, in turn, could mean the defendant needs to pay less compensation. As this is beneficial, the defendant could be asked to make an interim payment (if they’ve accepted liability) to cover the cost of physiotherapy or private medical treatment.
- Claim letter.
This more formal letter will set out the claimant’s case in more detail. It will provide details of when the accident happened, why the claimant believes the defendant was liable and details of any injuries. It will also include a list of any costs or expenses already incurred by the claimant.
- Response letter.
The defendant must respond to a claim letter within 21 days. After doing so, they are granted three months to investigate what happened. Before the three months are up, the defendant must reply to either a) accept liability for the accident and the defendant’s injuries or b) set out why they are not accepting liability. If the latter is true, the defendant should provide evidence to show how the accident happened.
- Disclosure of documents.
The protocol sets out that at this point the claimant must send the defendant proof of any costs that they are claiming as part of the personal injury claim. Additionally, the defendant will need to provide documents that show whether they’re liable for the accident or not.
- Medical Assessment
In all personal injury claims, an independent medical assessment is required. A specialist will be asked to examine the claimant’s injuries and to determine the level of suffering. A report will be filed after the appointment to list the injuries and explain the claimant’s prognosis.
Other pre-action protocols
Other procedures exist for claims that don’t fall into the low-value (fast-track) personal injury claims protocols. The other protocols cover:
- Low-value claims for road traffic accidents.
- Low-value claims for public liability and employer liability accidents.
- Industrial illness and disease claims.
- Medical negligence claims.
- A new whiplash tariff for road traffic accidents.
If you begin a personal injury claim with one of our solicitors, they’ll determine which protocol is relevant and manage the whole claims process on your behalf.
Negotiating a potential settlement
Hopefully, after the pre-action protocols have been followed, an agreement over liability for the accident will be agreed upon. If the defendant accepts liability, the next step of a personal injury claim is to calculate compensation levels. The amount of compensation paid in a personal injury claim will vary depending on several factors that could include:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Psychiatric harm (depression, anxiety, distress etc).
- Loss of amenity – the impact of the claimant’s injuries on their normal activities.
- Loss of income.
- Future loss of earnings.
- Repair or replacement costs for items damaged during the accident.
- Medical costs (physiotherapy, prescriptions etc).
- The cost of a carer.
- Travel expenses.
- Vehicle or home modifications to help the claimant deal with any ongoing disability.
It is vital to consider exactly how you’ve suffered before agreeing to a compensation settlement. Obviously, an insurance company will want to settle for as little as possible but you will need to make sure that any payment covers your needs both now and in the future.
If you are represented by one of our personal injury lawyers, they’ll do all they can to ensure that you are awarded the maximum level of compensation possible to cover all of your injuries.
Do personal injury claims go to court?
The idea of the pre-action protocols for personal injury claims is to try and make the claims process as efficient as possible and to reduce the need for court hearings. In our experience, very few personal injury claims require court intervention as they are settled one way or another between the parties involved.
However, if a claim cannot be settled amicably, fast-track claims will usually be heard by a court within 30 weeks. During this time, evidence will be sent to the court but there will still be the opportunity for an out-of-court settlement.
Providing proof for a personal injury claim
As we’ve shown, the stages of a personal injury claim require evidence to be provided to prove how the accident occurred, who was to blame and how the claimant has suffered. The types of proof that could be relevant include:
- Medical records. X-rays and medical notes from a hospital or GP could be obtained to prove the extent of any injuries.
- Witness statements. A solicitor may ask witnesses to an accident to provide a statement of what they saw.
- Photographic evidence. Pictures of the accident scene, any damage and any visible injuries could all be used to support a claim.
- Camera footage. In this day and age, it’s not unusual for dashcam or CCTV camera footage to be used to prove how an accident occurred.
- Accident report forms. Most companies need to keep a record of any accidents on their premises. A copy of an accident report could therefore be requested to prove when and where the claimant was injured.
- Financial records. The claimant should provide bank statements, wage slips, receipts and other records if they wish to claim back any losses linked to their injuries.
Time limits for personal injury claims
In general, there is a 3-year time limit for making personal injury claims. This will begin from:
- The date of the accident; or
- The date that the claimant became aware of their injuries.
For personal injury claims involving children, the 3-year limitation period will not begin until the child’s 18th birthday. That means that a parent or guardian acting as a litigation friend can claim on the child’s behalf at any point before that date.
As we’ve shown, there’s a fair bit of work involved in making a personal injury claim so we’d suggest that you start the process sooner rather than later. By doing so, you should have a better chance of collecting the proof needed to support your claim.
Personal injury claims can be settled in around 6 months or so if liability is accepted early on and you’ve already recovered from your injuries. If your injuries are more complex or liability for them is contested, claims can sometimes take more than a year.
No Win, No Fee claims
Our team of solicitors realise that the cost of legal representation can be off-putting. As such, any personal injury claim they take on is managed on a No Win, No Fee basis. That means that you don’t need to pay legal fees upfront and you’ll only pay for your solicitor’s work if you’re compensated.
At the start of your claim, you’ll be sent a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) to explain everything. Once signed, your solicitor will:
- Spend some time learning how you’ve been affected by your injuries.
- Begin collecting proof to support your claim.
- Send a letter of notification to the defendant and follow up with proof if liability is denied.
- Manage all parts of the claim on your behalf so you won’t need to deal with the defendant’s insurers yourself.
- Try to counter any arguments or objections raised by the defendant.
- Attempt to secure the highest amount of compensation possible.
If your solicitor wins the claim, they’ll deduct a success fee from your settlement amount. Legally, this is capped at 25%. The amount you’ll pay will be listed in your CFA so you’ll know about it from the start.
To see if you could make a personal injury claim on a No Win, No Fee basis, please call today.
How to start a personal injury claim today
We hope that this guide has explained the stages of a personal injury claim. If you’d like to talk to us about your own claim, please call today on 0800 652 1345. During your call, we’ll assess your chances of being compensated and provide free legal advice about your next steps.
Again, any claim that’s taken on by one of our solicitors will be handled on a No Win, No Fee basis. In most cases, that’ll make the whole process a lot less stressful.
If you have any more questions about the stages of a personal injury claim, please connect to our free live chat service.