Personal Injury Claims Process
The personal injury claims process is drawn-out, time consuming and complicated. Unless you are familiar with this area, it is advisable to hire a personal injury solicitor to represent you if you are considering filing a claim for compensation.
Here’s where many people hesitate because the mere mention of solicitors brings on thoughts of hefty fees and the possibility of losing that money too if the case is unsuccessful. So before going ahead without understanding the process, it is important to understand the financial arrangements that most solicitors work with in the case of personal injury claims.
Starting The Personal Injury Claims Process
Contact a personal injury solicitor. Most personal injury solicitors offer a free, no-obligation first consultation. This means you can make an appointment during which you give the solicitor all the details and get their advice without incurring any fees. Not only will you not be charged for this consultation but you are also under no obligation to hire that particular solicitor to represent you.
Once you have decided which solicitor you would like to work with, you will first need to discuss and agree on the terms under which they will represent you. You will find that these terms are very client-friendly and you enjoy several advantages.
The biggest advantage is that you get the benefit of the solicitor ’s experience and expertise without having to pay any upfront fees. The majority of personal injury solicitors will agree to represent you on a Conditional Fee or No Win No Fee contract.
According to this agreement, you are liable to pay the solicitor only if you win the settlement. The fee is usually an agreed percentage of the settlement you receive.
As you can see, you get all of the benefits without any risk if you hire a personal injury solicitor to file a compensation claim on your behalf.
So what exactly is the personal injury claims process after you have signed the agreement?
Here’s what happens from the time of your first appointment till the case is closed.
The First Consultation
During the first consultation, the solicitor will want to know the details of the incident and your injuries so that they can evaluate the merits of your case and determine how likely it is to succeed. Because they are agreeing to be paid only if they win the case for you, it’s only natural that they will want to make sure you have a strong case with a high chance of being awarded compensation.
The solicitor will also want to know details of your injuries, medical diagnosis and treatment required as well as all travel and treatment expenses in order to establish how much you might be able to claim in compensation.
After You’ve Signed The Agreement
Once you’ve agreed to go ahead and the agreement is signed, your personal injury solicitor will need some more information in order to build your case and actually start proceedings. You will be required to give these details:
- The date that the accident took place.
- Where and how the accident happened.
- Contact details if anyone who witnessed the accident.
- Photographs of the accident and injuries if any were taken at the scene.
- A copy of the police record.
- Copies of the doctor’s diagnosis and the prescribed medication and treatment.
- A letter from the doctor if the injury is severe and likely to require long-term or permanent medication or treatment.
- Proof of all financial expenses due to the injury – medical as well as travel expenses.
- Proof of loss of income and other job-related perks.
The solicitor will study all the details and will create a case emphasising that the accident was not your fault and that you should be compensated for your pain, suffering and financial losses.
You will be kept informed at every stage of the personal injury claims process especially with regards to the amount of compensation that the personal injury solicitor is asking for on your behalf.
In addition, the solicitor will also check out precedents of other similar cases that can be used to your advantage in court.
Making The Personal Injury Claim
After all the paper work has been put together, the solicitor will send a formal letter stating details of the incident and your injuries to the person, persons or company that you are holding responsible for your injuries. This letter is called a Letter of Claim.
The defendant must acknowledge receipt of the letter and reply within a fixed period of time, usually — weeks (some sites say 21 days, others say 3 months. I am not sure which is right).
In the reply, the defendant must state whether or not they accept liability for your injury. The next step depends on the defendant’s reply.
1st Scenario – The defendant admits full or partial liability
If the defendant admits full or partial liability, they will then discuss the matter further with your personal injury solicitor.
The main agenda for the discussions will be the amount of damages that are acceptable in order to settle the case out of court. In most cases the defendant will make a counter offer, which is lower than your original claim.
If the amount sounds fairly reasonable, your solicitor will then ask you if you are willing to make an offer to settle for that amount. If the amount is much lower than your original demand, your solicitor may advise you to counter with another offer slightly lower than your original demand but higher than the defendant’s offer.
If both parties can agree on the settlement amount, the case can be settled amicably without having to go to court. This is of course is a best-case scenario. Things do not always proceed so smoothly.
2nd Scenario – The defendant denies liability
If the defendant denies liability and wishes to contest the claim, their solicitor or insurance adjuster will usually get in touch with your personal injury solicitor and explain what they think is wrong with the claim. They may question any aspect of your claim, from the liability, the need for the extensive medical treatment or any other. Your solicitor will now have to respond to these arguments.
If both parties do not agree on issues of liability or amount of damages, court proceedings will then be initiated. From here onwards the court’s case management procedures dictate how the case proceeds.
After hearing the arguments of both parties, the court will issue a judgment on liability and amount of damages if any. If the defendant is found liable, they will have to pay you compensation in accordance with the court’s order.
How To Improve The Chances Of Success In The Personal Injury Claims Process
Personal injury claims cases rarely proceed smoothly with the defendant readily accepting liability and paying what you demand without contesting. With that in mind, there are a few things you can do to increase the chances of winning your claim for compensation.
Immediately after the accident, there are a few things you should do if you are able to. Of course, your first priority is tending to your injuries.
If you are seriously injured and in great pain, call for an ambulance immediately. If your injuries allow you to, try and get photographs of the scene and of your injuries. If you do not have a smart phone on you or if it is damaged, ask somebody else at the scene to do the needful.
Get the contact details of witnesses to the accident and ask them if they will testify on your behalf.
The next thing to do is to file a complaint at the nearest police station so there is a record of the incident. Get a copy of this record as it will help corroborate your claim.
Go to the nearest hospital or emergency medical centre and get your injuries attended to. Remember to obtain and keep the doctor’s notes and prescription. Also keep the receipts for all the payments made towards medications, doctor’s fees and treatment.
If long-term rehabilitation is required or if you need to make any structural changes to your home or vehicle in order to accommodate some disability brought on by the accident, keep those receipts too.
You are entitled to be compensated for all expenses that are a result of the accident so remember to keep all receipts and give them to your solicitor to calculate the amount of compensation you deserve.
If you had to miss work because of your injuries and you were not paid for that period of time, you will either need to submit your salary statement as evidence or provide a letter from your employer to this effect. You will also need documents supporting your personal injury claim for loss of promotion or other perks that you lost out on because you could not go to work.
Time Limit For Filing A Personal Injury Claim
In general, the time limit for filing a compensation claim for personal injury is 3 years from the date of the accident. There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are claiming compensation for an asbestos-related injury, the time limit is 3 years from the time you were diagnosed. This is because, the symptoms of all asbestos exposure related illnesses manifest themselves several months after the actual exposure.
If you have suffered an injury in an accident that was due to somebody else’s mistake or negligence, you are entitled to claim compensation. An experienced personal injury solicitor will handle all the formalities and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve while you take some time to heal from your injuries and put your life back together again.
Don’t let the lengthy personal injury claims process deter you from pursuing justice for your injuries.