Personal injury claim process
If you have sustained a personal injury due to the negligence of someone else then you may be able to claim compensation. This is a step by step process which rests upon the issue of blame : who is responsible for your injury and could they have taken action to prevent this from happening.
Note: personal injury includes psychological as well as physical injuries.
Types of compensation
There are two types of compensation payable in a personal injury case. These include:
General damages refer to payment for the actual injury itself. This means a payment for the pain and suffering caused or a loss of earnings.
Special damages refer to recompense for any financial losses occurred as a result of the injury, for example, damage to clothing, taxi fares to hospital and costs of a replacement car if it has been damaged in a road traffic accident.
If your case goes to court and they decide that your injury was partly your fault then this may affect the amount of compensation you receive.
How much will you receive? Personal injury awards are discussed further in our compensation payout section.
It is important to obtain as much evidence as you can when making a claim. This evidence is used to support a claim for compensation and is there to demonstrate that a lack of duty of care resulted in your injury.
Examples of evidence include:
- Accident book: if your accident happened at work or in a public place then record it in an accident book.
- Photographs: if possible, take photographs of what caused your accident as well as your injury/injuries.
- Witness details: if anyone witnessed your accident then obtain names and addresses from them.
- Medical report: report your accident to your GP as this will be requested if your case goes to court.
- Employer report: if you have had to change jobs or take time off work then obtain a signed report from your employer. This is used to support a claim for loss of earnings.
A lack of evidence will hinder your chances of obtaining compensation.
Step by step claims process
The claims process involves a series of steps which will be explained to you by your lawyer or solicitor. These are:
- Initial meeting with a lawyer, solicitor or claims assessor
- Solicitor/lawyer/claims assessor proceeds with your claim
- Claim is accepted OR
- *Claim is disputed
Initial meeting with lawyer/solicitor/claims assessor
He or she will assess your claim and discuss all aspects with you. If he/she thinks you have sufficient grounds for compensation then he/she will proceed with your claim.
Solicitor/lawyer/claims assessor proceeds with claim
He or she will contact the responsible party (person who caused your injury) by sending a letter of claim which informs them of your intention to claim compensation.
He/she will ask a medical expert to examine you and assess the severity of your injury/injuries.
He/she will discuss a schedule of losses with you which is a document listing all the expenses you wish to claim for.
He/she will send this to the responsible party asking them pay for these losses.
Claim is accepted
If the responsible party admits liability then they will enter into negotiations about an appropriate level of compensation.
If this is agreed then a settlement will be reached and you will receive your compensation. Your solicitor s/lawyer s/claims assessor s costs will be met.
Claim is disputed
If the responsible party disputes your claim then efforts will be made to reach an out of court settlement. If this fails then your case will go to court.
If you win your case and are awarded compensation then the amount will be agreed by the court. This also includes your solicitor s/lawyer s/claims assessor s costs.
This deduction from your compensation to pay your lawyer or solicitor is known as a statutory charge .
*If you lose your case then there will not be any costs to pay.
*Note: the issue of no win no fee is discussed in a separate section.
Time limit for personal injury claims
There are strict time limits for personal injury claims. This means that a claim must be made within 3 years of the date of an accident, injury or initial diagnosis of an illness.
So, it is important that you find a lawyer/solicitor or claims assessor as soon as possible.
How do you find a personal injury lawyer or solicitor? For more information on finding suitable legal representation, visit our taking legal action section.
Issue of fault in a personal injury claim
The issue of fault lies at the heart of a compensation claim. There are two concepts involved with this which include:
Duty of care
This term refers to a universal responsibility by all of us to ensure that we do not cause harm to anyone else by our actions or otherwise.
This applies equally to individuals and organisations.
For example, a supermarket has a duty of care to its employees and customers to ensure that they are reasonably protected against an accident or injury. This means that they have taken steps to ensure that both employees and customers can use the supermarket easily and safely.
If this duty of care fails due to an individual person s actions and causes an injury to another person then they are said to be negligent.
If a duty of care has been breached which has resulted in an injury to an innocent party then this is classed as negligence.
For example, if someone leaves an item in a place where it is likely to cause an accident and this happens then that person is said to have demonstrated negligent behaviour.
In other words: they could have foreseen that their actions would result in an accident, causing an injury to another person. They have failed in their duty of care.
What happens if you are partly at fault for your injury?
This is known as contributory negligence . A claim can still be made but there may be reduction in the amount of compensation paid to you.
If the court feels that you were partly responsible for your injury then it will decide upon an amount which reflects this degree of responsibility. The amount you receive will depend upon the degree of negligence by both you and the responsible party.
Two forms of liability
The main issue in a compensation claim is liability . There are two forms of liability which are:
This type of liability usually refers to product liability claims. It means that a person or manufacturer is automatically responsible for an injury without actually being at fault.
An example of this is a company that manufactures a product which causes an injury to the person who uses it. As long as that person has used it for its intended purpose but has sustained an injury which is not their fault then the manufacturer is liable for this.
Negligence does not have to be proved. What is important is that an injury has occurred and the manufacturer is responsible for that injury.
What this does is to ensure that the manufactures of a product take every precaution before they sell it to customers.
This means being liable for the actions of another person, e.g. an employee.
For example: an employer is responsible for some but not all actions of their employees. If an accident occurs it may not be the fault of the employer but they may have, inadvertently, allowed an employee to carry out a series of actions (or action) which has resulted in an accident or injury.
Claims for vicarious liability are complex and time consuming.
What will it cost you to make a claim?
The financial aspects of making a claim are a major concern for many people. There are organisations which can help with this or you can choose the no win no fee route.