If you or a loved one have sustained a head injury as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing, you may be entitled to claim compensation. However, head injury claims can be highly complex cases, requiring an experienced personal injury solicitor to help you recover the right amount of compensation, especially in the context of serious brain injuries.
The following guide provides a useful overview of the head injury claims process, from what injuries can be compensated for to the time limits for bringing this type of claim, although it is important to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible. Head injuries can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, where seeking compensation can not only provide you and your family with the necessary financial support to move forward, but access to specialised medical care to help facilitate any further rehabilitation and recovery.
What is a head injury claim?
A head injury claim is a claim typically based in negligence, where you or a loved one have sustained an injury to the head as a result of the negligent act(s) or omission(s) of another individual or organisation. This could be as a result of a road traffic accident, an accident in the workplace, a slip or trip in a public place, or even because of a medical mistake.
In all head injury cases, regardless of the nature or extent of the injury sustained, you must be able to show that this injury was the fault of someone else or, at the very least, partly their fault. By seeking expert legal advice, your solicitor will be able to advise you as to the merits of pursuing compensation against the proposed defendant in all the circumstances.
What constitutes a head injury?
A head injury can cover a whole host of different injuries caused in a number of different ways. At the lower end of the scale, a head injury claim could be based on a minor concussion, without any permanent damage to the brain and with a full recovery within a matter of a few weeks. At the other end of the spectrum are the most serious head injuries, with severe cognitive and physical disabilities resulting from permanent brain damage.
When it comes to brain injuries, these can be categorised in one of two ways:
- traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), or
- acquired brain injuries (ABIs).
TBIs are injuries to the brain that have been caused by an external force, such as an impact with the windscreen of a car having been involved in a road traffic accident or having fallen from a height at work. In contrast, ABI’s are any type of brain injury that has been acquired since birth, so covering a broader range of injuries, including traumatic injuries caused by an external force, but also injuries as a result of, for example, a lack of oxygen to the brain. This could include brain injuries at birth caused by medical negligence, resulting in severe cognitive and physical disabilities, such as quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
What is a serious head injury?
A serious head injury typically refers to an injury in which a person has suffered some degree of permanent brain damage with a significant impact on their quality of life.
When categorising the severity of a head injury in the context of a compensation claim, reference will typically be made to the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (JCGs). The JCGs categorise brain and head injuries as very severe, moderately severe, moderate, less severe and minor.
In very severe cases, there may be limited ability to follow basic commands, the recovery of eye opening, return of sleep and waking patterns, as well as postural reflex movement, but there will be little or no evidence of meaningful response to environment. There will also be little or no language function, together with double incontinence and the need for full-time nursing care. These cases will include those in a permanent vegetative or minimally conscious state. For moderately severe head injuries, the person will still be very seriously disabled, usually both physically and cognitively, including a marked impairment of intellect and personality, together with limb paralysis. As a result of their disabilities, there will also be substantial dependence on others and a need for constant care.
For these types of cases, the claims process can be especially complex, involving multiple different heads of loss, including the cost of past and future professional nursing.
Who can make a head injury claim?
Importantly, when claiming compensation for a head injury, there is no minimum threshold, where a claim can be made regardless of its potential value. This means that a head injury does not need to have had a catastrophic impact on your life for you to be eligible to claim.
If you have suffered a head injury for which someone else was responsible, or partly responsible, you can claim compensation, provided you are over 18 and have not lost the mental capacity as a result of your injury to make informed decisions. In circumstances where a loved one has suffered a serious head injury, and they can no longer make decisions for themselves, you may be able to bring a head injury claim on their behalf. You can also being a claim on behalf of a child, where the money will either be held in court funds until they turn 18 or used for their benefit in the case of serious head injury claims.
Importantly, either when claiming compensation for your own head injury or for an injury sustained by a loved one, if you or they were partly responsible for the accident that caused the injury, you may still be able to make a claim. In cases where an individual has contributed to the happening of the accident, such as being equally responsible for a motor collision or failing to use personal protective equipment at work, this does not absolve the proposed defendant from any blame on their part. This simply means that the value of the claim for compensation may be reduced by the extent to which you or a loved one were also liable. For example, if liability is agreed or decided on a 50/50 basis in a road traffic accident context, you would receive 50% of the value of your claim.
How to make a head injury claim
To make a head injury claim for yourself or a loved one, expert advice should be sought from a solicitor specialising in these types of claims. These are complex claims to prove, not least when it comes to establishing the nature and extent of the injury in question, as well as the extent of any rehabilitation and future care needs in the context of serious cases.
Each head injury is unique, although these types of injuries are typically associated with long-term complications. By seeking specialist legal advice, your solicitor can ensure that you are assessed by the right medico-legal experts and that any compensation secured on your behalf, or for a loved one, is sufficient recompense for any pain, suffering and losses.
In serious head injury cases, provided liability is admitted by or on behalf of the proposed defendant, your solicitor should also be able to secure an interim payment to help ease any financial pressure and provide access to expert medical care to facilitate further recovery.
What will you need to prove in a head injury claim?
As head injuries can arise in a number of different ways, the evidence required to prove a head injury claim can vary from case to case. For example:
In road traffic accidents: you would need evidence that the defendant driver was in breach of their duty not to cause harm to other road-users, including other motorists, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. This could include, for example, engineer’s reports of the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident, photographs of the road layout, together with any CCTV or dash-cam footage, plus the witness accounts of those involved.
For accidents at work: you would need evidence that the employer breached their duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. This could include, for example, health and safety records, minutes of meeting, CCTV footage and photographs of the accident scene, as well as any relevant witness testimonies;
For accidents in a public place: you would need evidence that the occupier had breached the duty to ensure that any visitors were reasonably safe in using their premises. This could include, for example, the inspection and repair records from the local authority for any defective pavement that had caused a tripping accident, or the cleaning and maintenance records of a private retailer where you had slipped on a spillage. You would also again need any CCTV footage and photographs, together with witness statements.
For medical mistakes: when it comes to head injuries arising out of alleged medical negligence, you would need expert evidence that a doctor or other healthcare professional had breached their duty to provide you, or a loved one, with a reasonable standard of medical care as their patient. These are especially complex claims for which you would need a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence matters.
How much is head injury claim compensation?
Every head injury case is different where the amount of compensation that you are likely to recover can vary, depending on the severity of the injury and the functional impact on your life or on the life of a loved one. Under the JCGs, the awards for different grades of head injury are given as a range, with guidance as to what features could justify a higher or lower award. Under the most recent edition (2022), the brackets are as follows:
- Very severe head injury: £282,010 to £403,990
- Moderately severe head injury: £219,070 to £282,010
- Moderate head injury: £43,060 to £219,070
- Less severe head injury: £15,320 to £43,060
- Minor head injury: £2,210 to £12,770
A claim for compensation in a head injury claim will include a sum for general damages, to reflect the pain, suffering and loss of amenity for the injury itself. It will also usually include a separate sum for special damages, providing compensation for any financial losses flowing from the injury. A claim for special damages can include any loss of earnings, both past and future, any care and rehabilitation costs, the cost of any adaptations for long-term disabilities, plus the cost of mobility aids or assistive technology. Even in the most minor head injury cases, a claim for special damages will also usually include claims for medication costs, travel costs to and from appointments, and for out of pocket expenses.
How long does a head injury claim take?
The length of time that it takes to conclude a head injury claim will often depend on the nature and severity of the injury. For minor injuries where there is a quick and complete recovery, and liability is not in dispute, the claim may be concluded in a matter of a few short months. However, most head injury claims, especially where there is a protracted rehabilitation period, can take a long time to settle or go to court, sometimes 2-3 years.
For serious cases, it can be important to access some of your compensation at an early stage, or the compensation for a loved one, while the claim is ongoing. An experienced solicitor will take care of this on your behalf, provided liability is not in dispute. This can help to ease some of the financial pressure caused by taking time off work, as well as where you need to access expert medical care and treatment.
How long do you have to make a head injury claim?
Most personal injury claims must be made within 3 years of the date of the accident or injury, although there are limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if an injured person no longer has the mental capacity to bring a claim, this time limit does not apply to them. The 3-year time limit also only starts to run for a claimant who has sustained a head injury as a minor when they turn 18, giving them until their 21st birthday to claim.
However, it is important to seek specialist advice as soon as possible, especially where liability is likely to be disputed, so that the matter can be litigated, if necessary, while events are fresh in the minds of any witnesses. Seeking early legal advice can also help you to recover some or all of the compensation to which you or a loved one may be entitled sooner rather than later. In serious cases, this can help to make life easier and start the process of beginning to adjust to a new way of living with a catastrophic head injury.
Head injury claim FAQs
How much compensation will I get for a head injury UK?
As all head injuries are unique, the amount of compensation can vary from case to case. This can range from a few thousand pounds to a seven figure sum, although the highest awards are reserved for the most catastrophic cases.
How much can you get for a head injury?
Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the likely value of your claim, although it is important not to settle a head injury claim until the prognosis for your injury is clear.
Can I get compensation for a head injury?
You may be able to claim compensation for your head injury and any losses flowing from this if there is sufficient evidence to prove that someone else was responsible, such as a negligent driver in a road traffic accident.
How long do head injury claims take?
Head injury claims can take several years to settle, especially where there is an extensive rehabilitation period and the prognosis is not immediately clear. However, your solicitor may be able to secure an interim payment pending conclusion of the claim.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.