If you have been injured in an accident, whether at work, in a public place, or in a vehicle, or even as a result of using some faulty equipment, you might be entitled to claim compensation for those injuries.
How do I know whether I can make a claim?
In order to bring a claim against another person or even another organisation, 'the Defendant', you must show that they are somehow at fault for causing your injuries. Without fault on the Defendant's part there is no claim. The accident could also be partly your fault and you may still have a claim.
That 'fault' can be negligence e.g. the driver behind you has failed to brake in time and has hit your vehicle from behind, or a breach of a legal duty e.g. your employer failed to provide you with proper equipment to carry out your duties. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the individual circumstances of your case.
What do I need to do to start a claim?
If you have been injured and you think it is someone else's fault, you should gather together all the details of the accident and your injuries so that you can tell your solicitor all the relevant facts. These would include:
- The name and details of the person or organisation that you feel are at fault
- Details of the location of the accident
- Details of your injuries and treatment
- Details of any witnesses
- If you have been unable to work as a result of the accident, details of your typical earnings before the accident and your earnings since the accident
- Details of any out of pocket expenses
- Details of any household or other policies of insurance which might cover your legal expenses in bringing the claim
What will happen next?
If your solicitor thinks you have a good chance of succeeding in bringing a claim, they will either send a formal letter of claim or a claim form (depending on the value of your claim) to the Defendant or their insurers, setting out the circumstances of your claim and details of your injuries. There is a legal protocol which must be followed to give the other person time to investigate and respond to the claim. In most cases the Defendant will already have insurance to cover such claims and their insurance company will then act on their behalf.
If liability is admitted then you must go on to prove your injuries, usually by means of a medical report, and also any out of pocket expenses caused by the accident.
Your solicitor will usually send you to an independent medical expert who will examine you and read your medical notes, and prepare a report. The expert will confirm the injuries which have been sustained in the accident and provide an opinion on any recommended future treatment and your expected recovery.
You can prove your out of pocket expenses, called 'Special Damages', by providing documentary evidence. The usual types of special damages include:
- Loss of earnings
- Travel expenses
- Any personal items, such as clothing, which were damaged in the accident
- Medical treatment expenses
- In the case where your car has been 'written off' in a road traffic accident, hire charges
In most cases proving these losses is straightforward, by showing receipts or payslips to the Defendant. If the loss you are claiming for is an item such as clothing or equipment damaged in the accident, the Defendant does not have to pay the replacement value, only the value of the item at the time of the accident, by reference to its age and condition.
You can also claim for any future special damages which might arise, for example, if your loss of earnings is continuing or the cost of future treatment.
If liability is disputed by the Defendant, your solicitor will advise you on what steps will need to be taken to prove that the Defendant is at fault. This might include interviewing witnesses, obtaining the Defendant's own witness evidence or getting expert reports on liability.
How much is my claim worth?
Your solicitor will only be able to value your claim once all the medical evidence is complete and once you have provided all the documentary evidence for your special damages.
The value of the claim for your injuries is calculated by referring to previous similar cases which have been decided by the Court, as well as the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines, which is a reference tool providing a rough tariff of awards for particular types of injuries.
Your past expenses and potential future expenses and losses will also be calculated by your solicitor and usually presented to the Defendant in a schedule. In complex cases these calculations might be referred to an accountant or a barrister.
Will I have to go to Court?
Most cases settle before reaching Court. However where liability is disputed, or the Defendant disputes that the injuries were caused by the accident, or even that your losses cannot be justified, then the case will have to be decided by the Court.
How much time do I have to bring a claim?
In most cases, you have 3 years from the date of the accident to bring a claim for personal injuries. If the accident occurred abroad, or on a ship or aircraft, or the accident happened to a child, then the time limits are different. It is always best to seek advice as soon as possible after the accident.
Paying for your Claim
When you instruct a solicitor to act for you, it is usual practice for you to come to some arrangement about their fees to confirm how they will be paid. Claims are usually funded by way of a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement with legal expenses insurance. Your solicitor will advise you on your options.
How we can help
If you need advice about an accident and whether to bring a claim, then please contact a member of our personal injury team.
For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.