If you have been injured in an accident, whether at work, in your car, or in a public place, and it was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to make a claim for personal injury.
What is the personal injury claims process?
In general terms, the legal process for personal injury claims requires the injured party to bring their claim, try to agree a settlement and go to court if necessary.
Lower value personal injury claims are run using the online Claims Portal. The Portal applies to claims which are valued between £1,000 and £25,000 with injuries resulting from road traffic accidents, accidents at work and accidents in public places.
The Portal was introduced to speed up and streamline the claims process, to reduce the costs of claims and to allow claimants and defendants to communicate efficiently and securely throughout the initiation, negotiation and settlement stages of a claim. The aim of the system is to achieve settlement and avoid the matter having to go to court.
At first, a Claim Notification Form (CNF) is sent to the defendant by the claimant and their representatives. The defendant has 21 days to respond.
The claim can only be resolved through the Portal if the defendant accepts full liability. If there is a dispute over liability, the claim comes out of the Portal.
Where there is no dispute as to liability, the claim moves on to negotiating settlement. This requires the claimant to submit their evidence in support of the injuries sustained and resulting losses incurred. They must also state how much they are willing to accept as compensation.
A period of 35 days then follows for the two parties to negotiate and come to an agreement on compensation.
If the negotiation stage fails and there is no agreement after the 35 days, the defendant should pay their final offer of compensation to the claimant.
The claimant is then to decide whether to pursue a higher amount of compensation by issuing proceedings.
Not all personal injury claims are dealt with through the Claims Portal, such as high value personal injury claims and road traffic accident injury claims where the claimant was partly at fault. If this applies, your legal adviser will be able to explain the options. Such matters must still be managed in line with the relevant Pre Action Protocol on pre-litigation conduct.
When appointing professional representation to help with your personal injury claim, choose a legal adviser with expertise in the type of injury you have suffered – particularly if the matter is complex and of high value – as well as experience in navigating the relevant personal injury process and negotiating the best outcome for clients.
What is the personal injury pre action protocol?
A pre action protocol specifies the pre-litigation conduct requirements for parties involved in a dispute that may come before a court.
There are specific pre action protocol applicable to:
- Personal injury claims (so-called ‘fast track’ claims)
- Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents
- Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury (Employers’ Liability and Public Liability) Claims
- Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes
- Pre-Action Protocol for Disease and Illness Claims
What is the personal injury claim time limit?
In most cases, you will need to make your personal injury claim within 3 years of the date of the accident which caused your injuries.
There are a small number of exceptions to this rule. For example, for victims with limited mental capacity, there is no time limitation. If the victim was a minor (ie under 18), they have 3 years from their 18th birthday to bring the claim (unless their parents or guardians made the claim on their behalf while a minor).
In specific circumstances where the victim does not become aware of the injuries or symptoms for a long time after incident, it may be possible to argue that the 3-year period starts at the ‘date of knowledge’ of the injury.
Your legal adviser will be able to assess your case and advise if there are any issues with the timing of your claim.
How long does a personal injury claim take to settle?
You could expect the following timescales as a guideline:
- Road traffic accidents (including whiplash claims) 6-9 months
- Workplace accidents 6-9 months
- Industrial disease 12-18 months
- Clinical negligence 18 –36 months
It is however difficult to determine from the start how long a claim will take to settle as each case is unique. Complex claims requiring multiple expert witnesses typically take much longer given the additional requirements for assessments to be conducted and reports to be written. In all cases, until it is clear how the other side will approach the claim – whether for example they accept or deny liability- will also influence how quickly or protracted the process will be.
What is the personal injury claim settlement process?
Most personal injury claims settle before they go to court. Deadlines apply to both sides to submit certain information such as witness statements, medical expenses and medical reports. A trial date will then be set.
Even where your solicitor has issued proceedings, they are likely to continue to negotiate to try to settle the case outside of court. This could include organising a joint settlement for both sides to come together and attempt to settle before the court hearing.
What if your personal injury claim is going to court?
If you cannot agree a settlement figure, your claim will proceed to court.
At the hearing, your claim will be heard by a judge.
If the value of your claim is under £25,000 you may not need to attend court and your personal injury solicitor or their appointed barrister will represent you in court. Cases involving a claim of over £25,000 are often extremely complex, so you may be required to attend and give evidence – essentially, talking through your witness statement, and being cross-examined by the other side’s legal team. Any witnesses will also be required to attend and give their evidence to the judge.
The judge will decide the outcome of the claim, including details of any damages to be awarded.
How much personal injury compensation could you get?
How much compensation you receive will depend on a number of factors, including the type of injuries you have sustained and the losses you have incurred as a result.
Short-term whiplash injuries for example will result in lower value claims than permanent spinal or neurological damage.
Your legal adviser should guide you through the process of determining the level of compensation you could expect. This will take into account the nature, severity, duration and circumstances of your injuries as well as any out of pocket expenses you have incurred as a direct result of the injuries, such as medical expenses and loss of earnings.
You solicitor should also discuss with you the amount you would be prepared to settle for in advance of any negotiation with the other side.
Who do I claim against?
Personal injury claims can come in many forms ranging from accidents at work, to medical negligence, to whiplash, slips trips and falls or road traffic accidents. Provided you are the injured party and liability or responsibility lies with someone else, you may have a claim.
You can claim against and individual, company or business, or organisation depending on who is liable for your accident. The defendant may be liable because they directly caused the accident, for example a car accident where the other party skipped a red light, or through negligence such as a shop failing to warn customers of a slippery floor.
Your legal adviser will identify the relevant parties in respect of liability and liaison for the claim.
Why take professional advice?
The personal injury claims process can quickly become complex, making professional legal advice invaluable to help you follow the required protocol and maximise any compensation you are awarded.
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.