How Do I Make A Personal Injury Claim?
It may surprise you to learn that more than three million people globally suffer personal injuries every year, according to the Law Society. However, when you consider that the term ‘personal injury’ encompasses both physical and psychological injuries – as well as diseases and other illnesses – that number starts to make sense.
Examples of these kinds of injuries include:
- injuries at work, such as lung problems caused by asbestos
- psychological injuries caused by stress at work, abuse, discrimination or harassment
- injuries from road traffic accidents
- injuries from slips, trips and falls
- injuries caused by negligent hospital treatment
- physical or psychological injuries as a result of a criminal act.
If you can prove that your injury was the result of someone else’s action – i.e. that they are ‘liable’ – then you may be entitled to claim compensation which can help you in your recovery.
There are three main types of compensation which you can claim:
- general damages – compensation for the results of the injury itself, such as pain, suffering and psychological distress
- special damages – compensation for financial losses such as medical expenses, loss of earnings, care expenses and damage to personal property
- future losses – compensation to cover future medical costs, rehabilitation and core loss of earnings.
If you’re thinking about making a claim for your injury you need to first be aware of certain time limits that are in place.
Generally, the time limit for you to make your claim is three years from the date that the incident occurred. This means you must issue court proceedings within three years of the incident. However, in cases where an injury does not become apparent until later, for example, in some instances of medical negligence, the three year time limit would apply from the date that you first became aware that you had suffered an injury. In addition, if the injury occurred when you were a child (under 18) the three year time limit begins from the date you reach the age of 18 and become an adult.
However, depending on the circumstances of the case, the court has the discretion to extend that time limit if they feel it’s necessary.
Once you’ve made your decision to bring a claim, you need to instruct a solicitor who is an expert in the field of personal injury law.
It’s wise to choose a solicitor who has been accredited as a specialist by the Law Society or APIL – the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. These accreditations are awarded as a mark of quality, competence and expertise for solicitors specialising in personal injury claims. To remain accredited solicitors must provide extensive evidence of their competency in handling personal injury claims and keep up to date with the latest legal developments. Find out more about Coles Miller’s personal injury accreditations here.
Many solicitors also offer a free initial consultation to help determine if you have a viable claim. To assess whether your claim will be successful, your solicitor will need the following information:
- Details of the incident: when, where and how it happened
- Details of your injuries, medical treatment and diagnosis
- Contact details for any witnesses
- Proof of expenses and loss of earnings
- Details of any insurance or trade union memberships which may help to cover your legal costs.
After the initial discussion, the solicitor will send you a letter summarising their advice on how you should proceed. They will confirm: that they are happy to take your case on, how long the process is likely to take, how you are funding the case and an estimate of costs, when you might have to pay costs, and details of any other information and documentary evidence that you need to provide.
Documenting Your Claim
It is important to keep hold of any documents which could prove useful to your claim, though these will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. You will need these to prove both that another person was liable for your injury and to prove the extent of the losses for which you’re seeking compensation.
First and foremost you will need to provide proof of identification – this is so your solicitor can open your case correctly and comply with money laundering regulations.
Next you will need to determine how you will fund your claim. If you have any pre-existing insurance policies with legal expenses cover (this is often included in household or car insurance) or if you’re a member of a trade union which entitles you to free or reduced cost legal representation, you will need to produce documentary evidence of this.
Coles Miller solicitors also offer No Win, No Fee agreements – also known as Conditional Fee Agreements – which are a way of making a personal injury compensation claim without any financial risk to you. You pay nothing up front, and instead pay your solicitor a success fee (a percentage of your compensation) only if they win your case.
You will also need to provide evidence to prove that another party was liable for your injury. Depending on your type of injury, your solicitor could ask to see:
- photographs of the location of the accident, e.g. trip hazards
- a sketch of the position of vehicles for a road traffic accident
- photographs of your injuries
- any written reports from where the incident happened, e.g. police reports
- any documentation from witnesses
- maintenance or accident report records, e.g. for an accident in the workplace
- your medical records.
It’s a good idea to keep a diary of events from the moment of the accident right up until you make your claim. You should take note of:
- the circumstances leading up to the incident which caused your injury
- events immediately following the accident, e.g. conversations with witnesses
- details of your ongoing medical treatment
- any pain or suffering you’re experiencing
- whether you have had to call on family or friends for assistance, and what you need help with.
In order to claim for your financial losses (special damages) you will need to provide proof of any out-of-pocket expenses, for example, receipts for prescriptions or painkillers, pay slips to prove your loss of earnings, and bills for any further medical treatment, additional travel expenses or equipment you need to purchase to mitigate the impact of your injury.
Once your solicitor has all the required documentary evidence, they will send a claim letter to the defendant – the person you are holding responsible for your accident – setting out the details of your injury and how it happened. They then have to investigate and reply to your letter within a fixed period of time – usually no more than three months – and either accept or deny liability for the injury.
If they accept liability then you will usually be able to settle the matter out of court. Your solicitor will put a value on your claim and may ask you to indicate the level of compensation you would be willing to accept. If you’re happy to ‘offer to settle’ for that amount, your solicitor will make what is known as a ‘Part 36 offer’ to the defendant. If the defendant is happy to agree on that figure – or makes their own Part 36 offer which you’re happy to accept – then the matter can be settled out of court.
If the defendant doesn’t accept liability – or they are not happy to settle for the figure that you and your solicitor agree on – then the case will have to go to court. This is always the final course of action. Your personal injury solicitor will be with you every step of the way and if you have set up a No Win, No Fee agreement there is no financial risk to you. If you win, your opponent will pay your basic legal costs and you will receive your compensation minus the percentage agreed for your solicitor. In the unlikely event that you lose, your opponent will try to claim back their legal costs from you but this will be covered by the ‘after event’ insurance which you will take out as part of the No Win, No Fee agreement.
Start Your Claim
If you’ve suffered an injury and you believe that someone else was responsible, get in touch with our team of personal injury solicitors.
Our experienced team of solicitors based in Poole and Bournemouth includes members of the Law Society's Personal Injury Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) so you can be confident that you will have the very best legal advisers pursuing your claim.
Book your free initial chat and we will help you to claim the compensation you need to help rebuild your life.