Guide to Personal Injury Claims
Our guide to personal injury claims has been compiled to give you information on the UK compensation claims process, what you can expect when making a claim for compensation, and who is eligible to make a personal injury claim. Anyone who has contracted a terminal illness such as occupational cancer, or has suffered a serious injury which was the fault of a third party, has every right to be compensated for their loss and suffering. However it is not only serious injuries which warrant personal injury claims, and even relatively minor injuries can cause considerable discomfort, significant loss of earnings and can have serious implications in later life. If you have been injured in an accident which was not entirely your fault, and that accident was caused by third party negligence, you may well be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries under UK law and should seek legal advice from a UK personal injury solicitor. Negligence and Personal Injury Claims In order to claim compensation for injuries, you must have sustained an injury due to third party negligence. Negligence in a legal sense is a failure to take adequate care in order to prevent an injury to another person from being sustained. Speaking plainly, it means that if someone is responsible for causing your injury, you can claim compensation from their insurance policy to cover the financial consequences of your injuries, and to compensate you for any pain and suffering caused. Even if the injury has been caused by someone without insurance, it may still be possible to claim compensation. With personal injury claims for compensation, there are four aspects of negligence which need to be satisfied. 1. That there was a duty of care to the claimant under the circumstances 2. There has been a breach of duty, by action or inaction which led to the injury 3. That an injury has been caused as a result of negligence and a breach in a third party's duty of care 4. That the injuries sustained could not have been avoided by any reasonable person under the circumstances An example of a duty of care could be a doctor's duty to treat a condition in a reasonable time frame, or it could be a supermarkets duty to remove potential hazards and make the store safe for visitors. Employers too have a duty of care, and must make sure workers are not placed at excessive risk and that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure health and safety - such as providing safety equipment and training when and where appropriate. What is Contributory Negligence? Contributory negligence may be applicable in many personal injury claims, such as when a single third party is not entirely to blame for an accident and injury. Contributory negligence often applies in road traffic accidents where more than one driver is deemed to be at fault. The contributory negligence of each party which led to an accident and injury will mean each is liable to pay a proportion of compensation. Personal injury claims can also include the contributory negligence of the claimant, should they be partly at fault for either the accident itself or the severity of injuries sustained. This could be failing to wear a seatbelt or not seeking immediate medical treatment following an injury. A defence could use this as evidence of personal negligence and would attempt to have compensation reduced due to a failure in the personal duty of care The UK Personal Injury Claims Process Personal injury claims should always be made through an experienced personal injury solicitor, even in cases where the claims appear cut and dry. A third party may accept that they have been negligent and that they are liable to pay damages, but this does not mean that a personal injury solicitor should not be used. Often even strong compensation claims can involve a battle to get appropriate compensation, as third party insurers are keen to limit their losses. Using the services of a personal injury solicitor almost always improves the chance of success, and will help you get an appropriate settlement. Personal injury claims start with an assessment of eligibility, and a claimant will be required to prove there has been third party negligence. This involves collating documentation of injuries, appropriate reports of your injuries to the proper authorities, and proving any material that can support your claim, such as photographs of the hazard which caused a trip injury. Once a personal injury solicitor is satisfied that there is a case for compensation, they will issue a claim letter to the defendant outlining why they are deemed to have been negligent. The defendant is given a reasonable time to respond and is allowed to defend his actions (or inaction) and attempt to prove he is not liable for damages. When it can be proven that "on the balance of probabilities" an injury was sustained due to third party negligence, many insurance companies will decide to settle. Out of Court Settlements for personal injury claims can save on court costs, which can be considerable. It is expected that both parties can come to a mutually acceptable agreement on the level of compensation which should be awarded. When the negotiations stall, or when negligence is denied, the case will be taken to a UK court and the matter will be decided by a judge. Costs of Making Personal Injury Claims Legal costs associated with personal injury claims can be considerable, which is why many accident victims pursue compensation using a 'No Win No Fee' solicitor. Each solicitor will have a specific fee structure, which they will discuss with you before you enlist their services. No Win No Fee solicitors commonly advertise on television, and give the impression that it is a totally free service; with claimants later faced with a considerable legal bill should the case prove to be unsuccessful. It is important to ascertain the exact nature of the fee structure and to determine any costs for which you will be liable should the case not produce the desired result. Costs associated with making personal injury claims are called disbursements, and need to be paid as the claim progresses. Your solicitor may cover these costs initially; however, you may be liable for these costs should your claim be unsuccessful. Similarly, while many No Win No Fee solicitors claim that you will not pay their legal fees, you may end up being liable for those of the defendant should you lose your claim. The legal costs associated with personal injury claims should never prevent you from seeking legal advice. While there will be costs when cases are unsuccessful, our experienced personal injury solicitors can give you an idea of the chances of success before commencing a compensation claim and can advise you on insurance policies to ensure any legal costs are covered. After speaking to one of our personal injury solicitors you can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with a claim. Many of our clients' personal injury claims are pursued on a 'No Win No Fee' basis, and we are always 100% clear on what your liabilities will be. Time Limit on Making Personal Injury Claims Personal injury claims for compensation must be made within a legally acceptable time frame, which is stipulated by the UK statute of limitations. Personal injury claims usually need to be commenced within 3 years of the injury date; however, there are various caveats which can reduce the timeframe for making personal injury claims. In almost all cases, instigating a claim as soon as possible after the injury has been sustained is the best course of action, while the accident is still fresh in the minds of witnesses. As time progresses, witness accounts become vaguer, and not taking rapid action can jeopardise the chances of making a successful claim. Not all personal injury claims are treated in the same way by the statute of limitations, so if you have suffered an injury and are in any doubt, it is important to consult a personal injury solicitor for advice. Work-related personal injury claims for industrial diseases are a notable exception to the statute of limitation. The 3 year claim period still applies, but it does not start until the date of knowledge of the disease is known. This could be when the first symptoms present, or when the diagnosis made by a medical professional that the condition is a reportable work-related illness. Since these two dates may differ by some degree, it is vital to seek legal advice as soon as you are aware that your injury is work-related, to ensure that you can make your claim in time. Personal injury claims for children are also treated differently, with compensation claims able to be made up until the victims 21st birthday, although often delaying a claim unnecessarily can lead to complications. A personal injury claims solicitor should always be contacted at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that any compensation claim does not become time-barred. Any claim which is not initiated within the correct legal timeframe is likely to be struck and will result in no compensation being awarded. Free Legal Advice for Personal Injury Claims If you have suffered an injury and it was not entirely your fault, you could be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries, and it is important that you seek legal advice. Our panel of solicitors are experienced in all personal injury claims and are prepared to give you free legal advice and advise you on your eligibility to claim personal injury compensation. You will be advised of the chances of making a successful claim, the procedures which need to be followed to maximise the chance of success, and whether it is actually worth your while to pursue compensation. Our solicitors are always sympathetic and understand the distress and suffering which can be caused by injuries. They will offer practical advice in plain English and not put you under any obligation to proceed with a claim. Call our Freephone number today to speak directly with a UK personal injury solicitor. We look forward to having the opportunity to help you with any personal injury claims.