Personal injury is something that happens from time to time and it is something that you may be able to make a claim for. We have put together an outline of what you need to know in order to bring a personal injury claim. Bear in mind that no two cases are exactly the same, as such, the information provided here is general in nature.
- INSTRUCT A LAWYER
Insurance companies want to deal with you direct. They want to save money. They want to under-settle with you. An experienced personal injury lawyer will protect your interests, not those of the insurance company.
- KNOW YOUR LAWYER
Personal injury and medical negligence work is not an easy area of law. There are likely to be arguments on liability and whether the accident caused the injury you claim to have suffered. Make sure your lawyer has the experience to understand all the facets of a personal injury case. In my experience, a carefully worded letter of instruction to a medical expert, for example, could significantly increase the level of damages you receive.
- KEEP KEY EVIDENCE
If you have had an accident, the first thing you need to do is to gather and preserve evidence. If you have a mobile phone with a camera, take photographs and video. Write everything down. Speak to every witness who is there. What are the conditions like? Were the streetlights on? If you have had a car accident, take photos of the positions of the car, if you can. Take a photograph of the dangerous equipment, or the wet floor, and so on. Get paperwork and collect receipts of expenses you have had to incur as a result of the accident. As a claimant, you have to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your accident, and that you have suffered financial loss as a result. Without receipts, that becomes difficult to prove.
- KEEP A DIARY OF YOUR RECOVERY
Much of the value of your claim will depend on how it has affected you. Keep a diary of your recovery. How has it impacted your life? What are you not able to do now, that you could do before? You may have suffered psychologically as well, so consider that element as well.
- KEEP A RECORD OF PERSONAL CARE PROVIDED TO YOU
Keep a record of personal tasks that are undertaken for you by others, such as dressing, shopping, cleaning, cooking, DIY, and so on. Keep a record of the hours that person has spent doing those tasks. You are likely to be able to recover an element of damages for the gratuitous care provided to you.
- OBTAIN MEDICAL EVIDENCE
An experienced lawyer would never settle a claim without obtaining medical evidence. In a straightforward claim, for example, where you have suffered a whiplash injury following a road traffic accident and you have recovered fully in a number of weeks, then a report from a general practitioner or primary clinician might be sufficient. In any other case, you will need a report from a specialist, for example an orthopedic surgeon. Sometimes, a report from a medical expert may recommend obtaining a report from another specialist field, for example a psychiatrist, or plastic surgeon. The report should not be from someone who has treated you either. Do not exaggerate the extent of your injury. Be honest with your lawyer and the medical expert. Those doctors have tricky little tests they can carry out without you knowing, to establish if you are genuinely injured to the extent you claim. Tell the medical expert though about all your symptoms, no matter how embarrassed you may feel talking about them.
- DO NOT SETTLE YOUR CLAIM TOO SOON
If you can, only settle your case when you have made a full physical and psychological recovery. Some injuries will be permanent, but if this is the case, make sure that the medical evidence is final. If your medical report concludes that you will make a full recovery within a year, and you settle before that time is up, there is generally no second bite at the cherry if you do not recover within that timescale. If you have under-settled a claim due to bad advice from your lawyer, you may be able to bring a claim for professional negligence to recoup your losses.
Written by Craig Oliver
Craig Oliver is a Senior Associate at Wessex Fairchild with a wealth of experience in civil, company and commercial matters including advising on company and business sales, purchases, and set-ups, partnerships, joint ventures and corporate restructuring.