Personal Injury Claims Guide

Personal injury claims can be made whenever an injury has been suffered due to the negligence of a third party, or there has been a failure in the duty of care towards the victim. Personal injury claims for road traffic accidents may be the primary reason for making a claim for compensation in the UK; however slips trips and falls due to a poorly maintained pavement or a trip hazard in a shop, accidents in the work place, industrial diseases, and medical negligence are equally valid reasons for claiming compensation..

Eligibility to Make Personal Injury Claims in the UK

When injuries have been sustained due to third party negligence, personal injury claims can be made as long as the injury was severe enough for the victim to seek medical treatment and provided that personal injury claims are initiated within the correct legal time frame.

If you have suffered an injury which could have been avoided had a third party been more diligent or taken greater care, you should seek advice from a personal injury claims solicitor. They will listen to your account of the accident and the injuries you have suffered, and will be able to tell you if you are eligible to make personal injury claims in order to receive compensation for your injuries.

The Personal Injury Claims Process

The process for personal injury claims can be longwinded, and even simple claims when liability for damages is accepted can take many months before a compensation settlement is finally awarded. Straightforward claims may take around 6 months from when the claim is initiated to payment of compensation, although frequently this can take considerably longer. In strong cases, it may be possible for a personal injury solicitor to apply for interim payments of compensation to be made to ease the financial strain on the claimant. Ongoing medical treatment costs are one such reason for making an application to the courts for the release of funds.

The personal injury claims process starts by collecting evidence against the defence, after which a claims letter can be issued. In this letter the defendant is advised of the claim, the reasons why he is believed to be at fault, and how the accident is believed to have occurred. The defendant is then given a reasonable time to respond and to prepare a defence.

The defendant's insurance company will be contacted, and should liability be accepted, negotiations on a compensation settlement can begin. When liability is not accepted the case is usually referred to the UK courts, and a judge will hear from the claimant's solicitor and the defence and will decide the outcome of the case, as well as determining the level of compensation which is due to be paid.

Instructing a personal injury claims solicitor to pursue compensation increases the chances of success, can speed up and smooth out the claims process, and often results in fairer compensation settlements being awarded.

Procedures to be Followed after an Accident

If you have been injured in an accident, the first priority is that of your health and you must seek medical attention to allow treatment for your injuries to commence. When you are pursuing personal injury claims for compensation, your solicitor will use your medical records as proof of injury, but any delay in seeking treatment could also be used by the defence. It could be argued that a delay in seeking medical attention indicates that the injuries were not severe, or that the claimant has been responsible for their injuries having deteriorated. This is referred to as personal negligence, or a failure in a personal duty of care to one's own health, and will see any compensation payment reduced accordingly.

Injuries must also be reported to the proper authorities such as the police in a road traffic accident, or in the event of an accident at work, in a shop or public building, in the relevant accident book. Failure to properly document the accident will cast doubt about when and where the accident took place. Without this proof, personal injury claims are unlikely to succeed.

Personal injury claims for compensation must be initiated within the correct legal time frame, as governed by the UK statute of limitations. In general, this places a 3 year time limit on making personal injury claims. The time period starts from the date of the injury, or in some circumstances, the date that symptoms of an injury are first diagnosed. There are numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations, so it is best to consult a personal injury claims solicitor as soon as possible after the event to ensure that a claim can be legitimately made. Since personal injury claims can only be made when sufficient evidence has been collected, it is ill advised to delay seeking legal advice.

Compensation Awards

Successful personal injury claims result in compensation being awarded to offer recompense for any pain and suffering caused, together with any financial losses suffered as a result of the accident and injury. Compensation awards are claimed and awarded as general damages and special damages, with each representing a different aspect of personal injury claims. Special damages are straightforward to calculate as they are concerned with actual financial costs incurred, or that will be incurred as a result of an injury. This includes loss of earnings, loss of overtime, medical bills and any treatment costs. Any expense which can be attributed to the injury or accident can be included in a claim for special damages provided that the expenses can be proven, have resulted from the injury, and that they can be supported with the appropriate documentation.

General damages are awarded to cover physical damage, pain and suffering, and include any loss of amenity - or loss of function - as a result of the injury. A personal injury claims solicitor would be able to determine the compensation that an accident victim is eligible to claim after assessing the case and the seriousness of the injuries.

Who Pays Personal Injury Compensation?

Compensation is most often paid by the negligent third party's insurance company. When the insurance company is alerted about a claim, negotiations can commence with the claimant's legal representative. However in some instances, the victim of the accident may be contacted directly by the insurer, even if a claim for personal injury has not yet been filed.

Insurance companies are keen to limit their losses, and are increasingly using this tactic to reduce their liabilities. If a claimant can be convinced to accept a settlement before they have enlisted the help of a personal injury claims solicitor, the insurance company will not be liable to pay the claimant´s legal costs (as there will not be any). This can represent a considerable saving for the insurance company, but it is rarely in the interests of the victim. Unfortunately, without legal advice an accident victim runs the risk of being offered a settlement which is insubstantial, and far inferior to their full entitlement.

It is always wise to seek legal advice before accepting any settlement to ensure that it is full and fair and that it covers all expenses incurred as well as any future costs due to the injuries which have been sustained. Contacting a personal injury claims solicitor for advice in such circumstances almost always results in far superior compensation settlements being awarded.