There’s no point pursuing a claim for accident compensation for personal injury if you’re not prepared. Here’s everything you should know and everything you need to do to maximise your chances of making a successful claim.
Here’s how to make sure you have done everything possible to bring about a successful claim, and how to get the best from your solicitor.
1. Start gathering evidence
To prove that a third party is liable for your injury, you will need evidence, and lots of it. This can come in many forms, from witness statements, medical diagnosis and recording every last detail about when, where and how it happened. The more detail the better.
2. Get medical attention
It may go without saying, but it needs to be exaggerated here. Documented proof of your injuries is fundamental to your success of winning a compensation claim. You need to seek medical advice and get a diagnosis and/or treatment from a medical professional, either your GP or someone at the hospital if you were admitted. Your injuries will need to be formally recorded if they are to be relied on as evidence in a personal injury case.
3. Record it and report it
If you are involved in a road traffic accident, as a driver, passenger or pedestrian, you need to report it to the police straight away. Police logs are vital in court proceedings, and they can make or break a case.
If it’s an accident at work, record it in the Accident Book with as much detail as possible. This is standard health and safety procedure in most workplaces, and someone should follow it up. But don’t expect the procedure to be automatically activated, or expect someone else to do it. Do your best to make sure it is recorded, with times, dates, location and other details of your injury. If there’s no Accident Book, report it to the health and safety officer verbally or in writing. You never know, this could be a recurring health and safety issue, so do some research to see if there is any history of previous accidents in similar circumstances.
4. Find your witness
If you’re lucky, you won’t be alone when you are injured. That person is invaluable to you as a witness, as long as they are happy to provide evidence on your behalf, so try to get their contact details: full name, contact number and address. If you miss this opportunity, use social media, ask friends, colleagues to find them. A witness account may well help you win you the case.
5. Picture the scene
Photographic evidence can be indisputable, as long as it has some context. Taking photographs of hazards at the scene which caused your accident, such as loose wiring or paving stones, is useful, but putting it into context is far more valuable. This could involve taking wider angle shot to include landmarks, or holding a ruler next to the hazard, or anything else which could identify the hazard and put it into context for the circumstances of your accident.
6. Keep receipts
If you’ve had to pay for treatment not covered by the NHS (such as a complimentary therapies like physiotherapy or chiropractic), keep all receipts relating to the fees and travel costs. You may be able to recover this cost as part of your claim.
7. Keep an injury diary
You can add to the evidence by keeping a journal of how you are feeling on a day-to-day basis after the accident. In some cases, injuries get worse over time. Tracking the development of your illness and charting mobility issues or psychological symptoms will add to the evidence to reinforce your claim. If you are making a clam for medical or clinical negligence, it’s a good idea to keep an accurate record of events leading up to the claim to ensure that you can recall everything when needed.
8. Keep track of time off work
Nothing is worse than a self-employed worker not being able to work. If you are self-employed, make sure you keep a record of your loss of earnings as a result of the accident. Keep a folder of emails requesting work and how much the job is worth, to quantify how much salary you have lost. You may also need to supply tax returns to prove lost income, so make sure they’re up to date.
9. Check your insurance
If you have legal expenses insurance policies or if you are a member of a trade union, this may mean you are entitled to legal representation at a lower cost. Check your other insurance policies (such as home or motor insurance) to see if they cover the legal costs of your claim.
10. Get the right personal injury lawyer
This really should be at Number 1 on the list as it will make or break your case. Be wary of making an online claim, or activating a claim just because someone has contacted you out of the blue by email, text or phone. When you’ve suffered an injury, you want to talk to a local solicitor face-to-face, not a faceless organisation on the end of a phone, email or via letter correspondence. Here’s more about why you should see a personal injury lawyer face-to-face.
How does it work?
Assuming you make the smart choice and opt to see a lawyer face-to-face, this is how things should pan out. After the first interview with your solicitor, they should send you a letter including a summary of the meeting and whether they have agreed to take on your case. They should also include information about how payments should be made, the timescales, likely costs as well as the likelihood of success and how much you might be able to claim in compensation. They should also tell you when you might have to pay the solicitor’s costs and when you might have to pay the defendant’s costs.
What happens next?
You should receive progress reports and extra advice about what to do if you are not happy about the way things are going. There should be one main contact (to get the best results, it should be the same person you saw, not someone else). After writing to you, your solicitor will send a claim letter to the third party (a company, person or people) which you believe is responsible for the accident. This third party becomes the ‘defendant’. The defendant has to reply within a fixed time period and tell you whether they accept or deny liability for your injuries.
Take it to court or ‘offer to settle’
If the defendant accepts liability, your solicitor will try to settle out of court and tell you what they think is the value of your claim. If you’re happy to accept the offer, your solicitor will make an ‘offer to settle’ for that amount. And if the defendant agrees the matter can be settled out of court. If they disagree, your solicitor may advice starting legal proceedings to challenge them, asking the court to award you compensation.
Legal aid is no longer available for personal injury cases in England and Wales. If your solicitor acts for you under a no-win-no-fee agreement you will be liable to pay the solicitor’s ‘success fee’ as this is not recoverable from the defendant.
What if you lose?
Your solicitor will explain all the available options to make sure that you can cover your costs if this happens, and whether you may have to pay any of the other side’s costs or your own solicitor’s fees.
To say personal injury claims are complicated is an understatement. For more clarity and advice contact our director of litigation, Katherine Flashman Kitson, on 01566 772375 or firstname.lastname@example.org.