Your Personal Injury Claim
The Time Limits
In most situations a personal injury claim needs to be made within three years of the accident. There are some exceptions to this, such as if the person injured is a child, the child will have three years from the age of 18.
Before Taking Legal Action (Pre-Action)
If you have a claim, your lawyer should send a letter of claim to the person they believe to be responsible for your personal injury. The letter will contain information on what is alleged and why. From this, the other side should reply, stating whether they admit responsibility or not for your injuries.
If fault is admitted, you have effectively won your claim and all that remains is to determine how much the claim is worth.
If the other side denies, or only partly admits responsibility, they must give full reasons for their denial and secondly disclose any documents that are relevant to their reasons.
In personal injury claims, it is always necessary to consult a medical expert and get a report to determine what injury the accident caused, and what the effects are likely to be. These medical experts have a duty to the court, rather than to the person who paid for the report.
Where the injuries are more complex, you will often need more than one medical expert report, or another type of expert in a specialist area, such as accident reconstruction. Medical evidence may take longer to gather in more complex cases, as the prognosis needs to be determined accurately.
Once all the medical evidence is available and agreed, it is usually possible to advise how much compensation a court would be likely to give, and at this point either side can make an offer to settle the claim. Either side can make offers to settle the claim.
The decision to make, or accept, an offer to settle ultimately rests with you. You shouldn’t feel pressured into making a decision to settle your claim, but your lawyer should offer you’re their expert opinion on each offer, and the consequences of both accepting and declining it.
If a full and final settlement can be reached which you are happy to accept, the claims process can end here.
If there is a deadlock, or the 3 year time period is about to expire, then we will recommend starting court proceedings.
Starting Court Proceedings
This involves filling out the claim form, paying the fee, and sending it to the courts. Issuing court proceedings doesn’t necessarily mean that a case will go to court. However, it is the formal step that starts the legal process, and ends with a trial before a judge in court. If a settlement is reached on the way there, the process can come to an end there and then.
After the claim form is filed along with the ‘particulars of claim’. This is a form containing the circumstances around the accident, the allegation, the injury suffered, medical evidence, and the financial losses that have been caused by the injury, such as medical costs.
After the defence have responded, the court will ask both sides to come to an agreement on the case timetable. If an agreement can’t be made, the judge will make these arrangements. The official name for these arrangements are the ‘directions’. The directions will include a date for exchanging documents, witness statements, and expert reports, along with all other preparations needed for the trial.
Unfortunately sometimes an amicable settlement isn’t possible. If this is the case, then there will be a trial in court presided over by a judge. You will probably need to attend and answer both the defendant’s lawyer and the judge’s questions. Don’t be scared, this is usually not as daunting as it sounds! Those handling your claim should be able to prepare you for trial properly.
Only 5% of all claims end up in Court.
Rethinking Your Claim
Are you wondering whether things could have been different with your claim? Every case is different and so this is just a general guide to the process of making a personal injury claim. However, if you’re left with any questions after reading this guide, and you’re concerned about a claim, current or old, you can contact us for a free review and consultation.