Legal Talk: Making a personal injury claim

With Elmhirst Parker Solicitors

If you suffer an injury and someone else is to blame, then you may be able to receive compensation by making a personal injury claim.

What are personal injury claims?

Personal injury claims cover various incidents such as road traffic accidents, accidents at work, or trips and falls in public places such as the supermarket, hospital or on the street.

If you are injured and it wasn’t your fault, it is advisable to take photos of your injuries and the scene of the incident, report it to staff, the council or police, take names and contact details of any witnesses, and get examined by a doctor. These will all help if you choose to make a claim for your injuries.

How long do you have to claim?

Generally speaking, you have to commence a claim within three years of the date of your injury or accident. But there may be exceptions to the rule. If the claimant lacks mental capacity, usually because of a disability or brain injury, there is no limit. For claims on behalf of children, the three-year limit begins once they turn 18.

Claims can take between six months and a few years to settle depending on complexity, so contact a solicitor when you first realise you may have a claim to ensure that you stay within the time limit.

What can you claim for?

A personal injury claim is usually split into two parts.

General damages are for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity. General damages are worked out using guidelines set by the courts and based on the severity of your physical and/or psychological injuries and whether they are permanent or not.

The other part of a compensation claim is special damages. These are any financial losses or expenses resulting from the injury. This could include medical treatment or rehabilitation costs, travel expenses to and from medical appointments, or loss of earnings or pension if you’ve been unable to work.

In more severe cases where injuries are life-changing, it can include claims for adaptations to your property or past and future care costs.

How much could a claim be worth?

No two cases are ever the same. Even if two people are in a car accident, their claims will always be different as their injuries and personal circumstances will differ.

If you are fortunate to recover from your injuries, such as whiplash, your claim may be worth a few hundred pounds for your initial pain and suffering. If your injuries are more severe and have impacted many aspects of your life, such as your ability to work due to a back injury, then the claim will be more substantial.

Will I need to go to court?

Most personal injury claims are settled out of court if the defendant admits liability. Court proceedings are costly, so it is in both parties’ interests to co-operate via alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or joint settlement meetings.

I was injured at work. Will I be sacked if I make a claim?

Your employer owes you a duty of care. If you were injured while doing your job, it will usually be because they breached that duty or failed to follow health and safety procedures.

It is illegal to terminate employment because of a claim. This is a separate civil matter and will be claimed against their employer’s insurance policy – so they shouldn’t take it personally. If you do face issues at work after bringing proceedings against your employer, we can also advise you on employment law.

What if the driver was uninsured?

In road traffic accidents, the claimant could be the driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian. In most cases, the defendant’s insurance policy would cover them for any accidents. However, if they didn’t have insurance or were untraceable because it was a hit and run, a claim would be covered by the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). This was set up due to government insistence that insurers have a safety net to protect those in such circumstances.

How much does it cost to make a personal injury claim?

In certain cases, we can offer No Win No Fee, or conditional fee agreements. This is where there are no upfront costs to the claimant and all of our legal costs are recovered from the defendant if a claim is successful. Solicitors are able to receive a percentage uplift in their fees, depending on the individual circumstances of the claim.

If a claim is not successful, all fees are written off. So, claimants have nothing to lose.