Guide to Making a Personal Injury Claim

Introduction

To be able to claim compensation the incident which causes your injury must legally be another person or organisation’s fault.  Examples would be – if a car driver or passenger was injured because another vehicle collided with their vehicle or where an employee suffers an injury as a result of faulty work equipment.

If you have been injured and you believe you have a claim against another person or organisation (for example your employer or a local authority), your case will be assessed at an initial free meeting.

First Meeting

At that first free meeting, we will discuss the circumstances of the incident in which you were injured and advise you on whether we believe you have a good claim for compensation.  At that meeting, we will also consider whether the person or organisation who we believe is responsible for your claim (known as the Defendant), either has the money to pay any compensation or whether they have suitable insurance.

If we consider that you have good case and the Defendant is either insured or can afford to pay compensation, we will then discuss the various types of compensation which you can claim.

As well as compensation for your injuries, depending on the type of case, there may be other losses.  For example, you can claim loss of earnings for time off work whilst recovering from your injuries, damages to personal belongings and travel costs for the medical treatment.

If the losses are ongoing we will of course update the value of your claim during the lifetime of the case.

Funding

We will also discuss funding of your case at the first meeting.

You may be covered to bring a claim under your house insurance.  If you do not have such insurance or it does not cover the circumstance of your claim (or indeed if you do not want to make a claim under that insurance) we would act for you on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

If your claim is successful we claim our costs and expenses from the Defendant.  Unfortunately, following a change in the law in April 2013, we are no longer able to claim all the costs incurred in your case from the Defendant.  However, we guarantee that you will receive at least 75% of your compensation if your case is successful.

If your claim is not successful, you do not have to pay our costs under the no-win no-fee agreement.  If we have incurred any expenses, for example, the cost of a medical report these would be payable by you.

You can take out a separate insurance policy to cover these costs.  However, the cost of that policy cannot be claimed (since changes to the law in April 2013) from the Defendant even if your case is successful.

The insurance policy will also cover any costs you may have to pay your opponent if the case is lost.  However, there are limited circumstances in which you would have to pay those costs.  These would be discussed at our first meeting and during your case.

Starting Your Claim

How the case is started depends on the type, date and value of your claim.

If your case is valued at less than £25,000, it is likely that the case would be started through a secure electronic website (known as a portal) and submitted direct to the Defendant’s insurer.

That insurer then has a fixed period (of between 15 and 40 days depending on the type of case) to confirm whether they will settle the claim using the electronic portal.

If they admit responsibility within that deadline the case stays within that portal.

If not, the insurers have more time (usually 3 months from when the case is first reported to them) to investigate your claim.

Proving Your Case

If the Defendant (or their insurers) does not admit responsibility we may need evidence from witnesses to support your claim.  We would ask for details of those witnesses at the first meeting and also any documentation which may help your case.  This could include documents held by the Defendant, for example, accident reports which should be disclosed by them to us during the case if responsibility for the accident is disputed by them.

We would also need evidence to support your compensation claim for your injuries.  This would be a medical report from an appropriately qualified independent doctor (or doctors depending on the type and extent of your injuries) as appropriate.

For other losses it may be for example wages information from your employers to support a loss of earnings claim, invoices for clothing or repair costs for your car.

We will of course advise you at the first meeting and throughout your claim what information would be needed to prove your case.

Negotiating a Settlement 

If the defendant or their insurers admit responsibility, once we have the evidence to support your claim for your injuries and other losses, we try to negotiate a settlement for your case.

This would either be through the electronic portal (where we would have to make the first offer) or by email/letter and/or telephone calls with the defendant or more likely their insurers.

In the vast majority of cases where responsibility is admitted within the portal or the longer three month time limit allowed for insurers to investigate claims, these are settled without Court proceedings being needed.

We will of course advise you on the value of your claim and whether any offers made by the insurers should be accepted.

Start of Proceedings

If responsibility for the incident in which you were injured is denied and we still believe you have a good claim or if the insurers are simply not responding to us or making low offers, Court proceedings may be needed.

We will start those on your behalf and once proceedings are sent to the defendants (or solicitors representing them) there are strict time limits within which they must respond.

Each case is different but whether the case is defended or whether we obtain an order for your compensation to be assessed by the Court (known as a Judgement of default) the Court will timetable the case to a final hearing.

Preparing for Trial

The main steps used when they timetable a case to a final hearing will be for each side to provide copies of relevant documentation to the other side (known as disclosure) and then exchange witness evidence.  Depending on the type of case there may also be provision for updated medical evidence and updated to be prepared by one or both sides.

A recent case has confirmed that Court timetables must be complied with.  If deadlines within that timetable (for example to send witness statements) are not met then, depending on who had not complied with the timetable, your claim could either be stopped (known as being struck out) or the defendant would be prevented from using part of their evidence (for example an expert report) if it is not provided in time.

Accordingly, it is very important that the timetable is maintained.  We would try to ensure that as much work as possible for example preparing witness statements is carried out before proceedings are started.

We should stress that simply because proceedings have been started this does not mean that the case will not settle.  Often cases are settled soon after proceedings have been started when the defendant and their insurers realise that you are serious about making a claim and are prepared to go to trial to prove your case.

Trial

If the case does not settle then a Judge must decide either the Defendant is to blame (if responsibility remains in dispute) and/or how much your claim is worth.

At that trial you would be represented by a Barrister who is also likely to be acting on a no win no fee basis.

It is likely that the Barrister will have been involved in your case by this stage of your claim for example to prepare the Court paperwork or to advise on you case once we have all the documentation and witness evidence from the Defendant.

At trial, the Judge will have a bundle containing all relevant documentation for example the particulars of claim (which is the document setting out your case), the medical evidence and witness statements.

Your evidence is contained within your witness statement and therefore you would not have to give evidence in Court as to what is in that statement.  However, the other side’s legal representative can question you on the contents of that statement and the case in general.

Once all witnesses have been questioned and any expert evidence has been provided (unless that evidence is agreed) and both sides’ legal representatives have made their arguments to Court, the Judge will decide on your case.

We appreciate that appearing at Court is a stressful experience and we would of course discuss with you in detail what to expect at Court before the final hearing.

If your claim is successful the Court would normally order payment of compensation within 14 days and also order that our costs and expenses are payable by the Defendant.