If you’ve been in an accident, or developed an illness, that wasn’t your fault or was the result of another person’s negligence, you may have a case for a personal injury claim to recover financial compensation. This compensation can be used to cover loss of earnings, medical treatment, rehabilitation, loss of earning potential and other losses incurred as a result of the injury or illness.
Personal injury claims can arise from many scenarios – such as in the workplace or on the road. If, for example, you’ve been involved in a road accident that was the fault of another party, then you may have a case for a personal injury claim. Likewise, if you’ve been injured in the workplace as a result of dangerous hazards, such as coming into contact with asbestos or tripping over a loose cable, you may also have a claim.
Common personal injury claims
The types of injury you can claim for vary greatly, and can include:
- psychological illness brought on in the workplace as a result of discrimination or harassment
- psychological illness caused by the stress of managing an unreasonable workload
- physical injury incurred as a result of errors made during hospital treatment or vaccinations
- illness and premature death caused by contact with asbestos
- injuries received due to faulty goods or services
- injuries received after tripping over poorly laid paving stones
- psychological illnesses brought on due to child abuse
The best way to ascertain if you have a personal injury claim is through a consultation with a solicitor.
To be awarded financial compensation your solicitor will have to prove two things: that your injury or illness was – or is – the result of a particular accident or set of circumstances and that the accident happened as a result of someone else’s negligence.
If these two principals are proven, you may be eligible for compensation by being awarded special damages, general damages or both.
The difference between special damages and general damages
Special damages relate to actual costs incurred as a result of injury or illness – these are costs that can be proven by showing receipts. For example, special damages might cover: loss of income to date, short-term and long-term medical expenses, transportation costs such as taxis to the courtroom or hospital, loss of earning capacity (if you’re unable to return to your job and must take a lower-paid role as a result) or repair or replacement of damaged property.
General damages, meanwhile, refer to the amount of compensation made as a result of the impact the injury or illness has had. General damages might cover: physical pain and suffering, mental pain and anguish, injury or impairment, loss of a unique career if you can’t return to work, and difficulty finding another job. As this is largely subjective, this is where the quality of your representation will really make a difference to your case and how much you win.
How much compensation can you claim?
Calculating how much compensation you may be awarded is complicated: several factors will be considered when hearing your case. These include the nature and severity of the injury or illness sustained, treatment costs, loss of earnings or potential loss of earnings, and any other losses incurred as a result of the injury or illness.
As of 2013, for all conditional fee agreements, claimants are required to pay solicitors a percentage of their compensation as fee. See the section, ‘Legal fees you can incur’ for more on this.
Fatal injury claims
You can also make a claim by acting on behalf of someone who has died due to a fatal injury. In this instance, you would be making the claim as that person’s representative or financial dependent – and thereby claiming for loss of dependency and/or loss of companionship.
If, for example, your spouse or partner is killed in an accident at work and is the sole breadwinner whilst you care for your children, you may be able to claim for compensation on several grounds: compensation to help you financially support your family, compensation to deal with the grief and compensation to manage the loss of a companion. Again, seek advice on your circumstances from a qualified legal professional.
Timeframes for personal injury claims
There are strict time frames associated with making a claim, known as the limitation period. For most cases the limitation period starts on the date of the accident that caused the inury, or disease begins, and runs for three years – meaning that a claimant must begin legal proceedings within this three-year window.
However, there are exceptions to this rule and timeframes do vary according to the circumstances of the accident and the nature of the injury. So if you’re thinking about making a personal injury claim, be sure to consult with a legal professional as soon as possible.
What you need to show to make a claim
Before you make a claim, and before you meet with a solicitor, you should be as clear as you possibly can be on all the relevant facts and details relating to the cause of injury. This includes important information like the date and time of the injury and where the injury took place.
If it’s an injury sustained over a period of time, in multiple places, you’ll need to provide a time period for the injury and list of places where the injury was sustained (where you came in to contact with a hazardous chemical, for example). You will also need the contact details for any witnesses and, of course, full details of how you were injured.
You will also need to share details of the injury (or injuries) itself, and all losses you have suffered as a direct result of the injury.
As your case progresses, you will be expected to attend medical examinisations with expert medical witnesses, specialising in the field of your injury.
Road traffic accidents
If your personal injury claim relates to a road accident you should have notified your insurance company. Generally speaking, it’s useful to have as much evidence as possible to support your claim. It’s good practice to write down, in detail, a full account of the accident as soon as you can (so while the details are still fresh).
Photographs taken from the scene of the accident will be useful and, as previously mentioned, you should have noted down the names and contact details of any witnesses present at the scene who can support your claim.
Legal fees you can incur
Legal aid no longer exists for personal injury claims and cases can be very expensive to bring to court. It is therefore essential to seek professional legal advice as early as possible. Different solicitors will have different costs and payment structures, while some may offer to take your case on a no-win, no-fee basis – otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement or NFA. However, while a no-win, no-fee condition means you won’t have to pay your solicitor’s fees if you lose, you may still have to pay the fees of the defendant’s solicitors – and you’ll most likely need to take out an insurance policy to cover this.
You may also have an insurance policy that can help with your legal costs. Policies for house contents, car insurance and travel insurance often have legal expenses cover attached – so be sure to check this with your solicitor.
If you do opt for a conditional fee agreement, and your claim is successful, your solicitor will recover payment via the compensation you’re awarded. This is known as a success fee and is usually agreed upon beforehand as a percentage of the compensation. The maximum a success fee can be is 25% of your compensation.