Car accident personal injury claims
Table of contents
What is a personal injury
A personal injury can be:
- a physical injury, disease or illness, or
- a psychological injury or illness.
A personal injury could result in death.
Examples of personal injuries are:
- an injury at work. This includes work-related illnesses such as a disease caused by working with asbestos
- a psychological illness caused by stress at work
- an injury caused in a traffic accident
- an injury received as a result of faulty goods or services
- an injury caused if you trip over paving stones
- a psychological illness suffered as a result of abuse as a child
- an injury caused by errors in hospital treatment or by vaccinations
- a physical or psychological injury sustained by a victim in the course of a crime
- a psychological illness caused by discrimination or harassment in your work-place.
If you have suffered a personal injury, or if you are acting on behalf of someone who has died because of a personal injury, you may want to consider the following:
- do you want to make a complaint to the person or organisation you believe was responsible for the injuries (see under heading Making a complaint )
- do you want to make a claim for compensation to cover losses you have suffered as a result of the injury (see under heading Compensation )
- are there any immediate financial problems arising because of the injury, for example, you are unable to work (see under heading Financial problems )
- do you want to contact an organisation that could offer support or counselling (see under heading Support and counselling ).
Action to be taken
Whatever you are intending to do about your personal injury, actions you could take include:-
- inform the police if, for example, the injury resulted from a road accident
- if the injury resulted from a road accident, report it to your insurance company. The insurance policy may be invalid if an accident is not reported
- report the injury to your doctor because it could become more serious. You should do this even if the injury seems minor. If you subsequently go to court to get compensation for the injury, the doctor will be asked to provide a medical report
- gather evidence about the accident and injuries. For example, it may be useful to take photographs of the scene of an accident and of what caused the injury. You should also, if possible, write an account of the incident while details are still fresh in your mind. If there are witnesses, you should make a note of their names and addresses.
Accidents at work
If the accident happened at work, it should be recorded in an accident book. If your workplace does not have an accident book, you should write out brief details of the accident and injuries, send them to your employer and keep a copy. Your contract may say that you have to report an injury at work to your employer. If you are self-employed, you have a legal responsibility to report some accidents resulting in injury to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or to the local authority environmental health department. In England and Wales, there is more information about reporting accidents to the HSE on its website at www.hse.gov.uk .
Making a complaint
If you have had an accident or suffered an injury you might be able to get an explanation of what went wrong and to receive an apology. In some cases, there may be an official complaints procedure you can use.
One disadvantage of using complaints procedures is that they are often time consuming and the final result will be no more than an apology. If you have suffered a personal injury and you also want compensation, you should be aware that there are time limits for taking legal action (see under heading Taking legal action ) and going through a complaints procedure may delay matters.
If you decide that making a complaint will provide a sufficient remedy, here are some examples of the organisations you can complain to:
- a government department
- a local authority
- your employer
- the police
- your school or other educational institution
- your hospital or other National Health Service institution
For more information about NHS complaints in England, see Dealing with NHS problems - where to start
In Wales, NHS Redress Arrangements may allow you to combine making a complaint with claiming compensation.
If you want more information about how to complain to these types of organisations, you should seek specialist advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB .
There are several ways of getting compensation for a personal injury:
- using a claims assessor (see under heading Claims assessors )
- taking legal action in a civil court (see under heading Taking legal action )
- making a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (see under heading Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority ) (Criminal Injuries Compensation Agency in Northern Ireland)
- through a criminal compensation order (see under heading Criminal compensation orders )
- special Government compensation schemes for some injuries and losses such as vaccine damage or asbestos-related disease – see under heading Special compensation schemes
- in Wales, using the NHS Redress Arrangements .
Amount of compensation
If you have sustained a personal injury you may be able to claim two types of compensation, general damages and special damages.
General damages are paid as compensation for an injury, for example, a payment for pain and suffering or loss of future earnings. The court will decide on the amount to be paid.
Special damages are paid as compensation
for actual financial loss caused by the accident up to the date of the hearing. These can include damage to clothing or other belongings, the costs of care, travel costs to hospital, medical expenses (including the cost of private treatment) and the cost of hiring and/or repairing a car if it has been damaged in the accident.
If a court decides that you were partly to blame for the accident, it may reduce the amount of damages you receive. An example of this would be if you were not wearing a seat belt when you were involved in a traffic accident.
In England and Wales, for more information about claiming compensation for personal injury, see Claiming compensation for personal injury – no win, no fee agreements in Legal fact sheets .
Deduction of social security benefits from compensation
If you have been receiving certain social security benefits because of an accident in which you sustained a personal injury, you may have to pay these back out of any compensation you get.
The rules about deduction from benefits are complex and if you think you may be affected you should seek specialist advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB .
If you have sustained a personal injury you may be considering using the services of a claims assessor (sometimes known as a claims manager). Claims assessors offer to take up cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis but there may be some disadvantages, including:-
- a claims assessor will not usually be a solicitor and may not have a solicitor taking responsibility for the case. If this is so, the assessor will not be able to claim compensation through the courts and if you have suffered the injury you may receive less compensation
- the claims assessor may ask you to pay a percentage of whatever compensation you receive to the assessor. You should be aware that while paying 50% of ?1,000 damages may be acceptable to you, paying 50% of ?10,000 may not.
All claims assessors must be authorised by the government to carry out business. They must stick to a strict set of rules which cover how they advertise, take on business, deal with and represent clients.
If you aren't happy with the service you get from a claims assessor, you can make a complaint. They must have an internal complaints procedure which they must tell you about.
Before you use a claims assessor, you should check that they are authorised. You can report a claims assessor who isn't authorised to the Claims Management Regulation Monitoring and Compliance Unit by phone on: 0845 450 6858, or by email at: email@example.com .
To find out more about the rules covering claims assessors and to check whether a claims assessor is authorised, go to www.claimsregulation.gov.uk/consumer .
If you are considering using a claims assessor you should first seek advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB .
Taking legal action
If you want to take legal action to claim compensation for a personal injury you will need to get advice from a solicitor specialising in these types of cases. This must be done as soon as possible as there are strict time limits on taking legal action (see below).
There are different time limits within which you must begin legal action in a personal injury claim. You should therefore get legal advice urgently if you wish to claim compensation.
The most common claim in a personal injury case is negligence and the time limit for this is three years. This means that court proceedings must be issued within three years of you first being aware that you have suffered an injury.
In some cases, a court may decide to extend a time limit, depending on the circumstances of the case.
If you are considering taking legal action and have not yet been to a solicitor you will need to be aware of the time limits for taking action and should seek help from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB .
Paying for legal action
Legal action for compensation for a personal injury can be expensive. You may be able to get help with legal costs from, for example:-
- a solicitor or organisation providing legal aid
- For more information about legal aid, see Help with legal costs .
- a conditional fee agreement (see below)
- an insurance policy. Many house contents policies, car insurance or travel insurance policies have legal expenses cover attached.
Conditional fee agreement
A conditional fee agreement means that your solicitor will receive no fees if you lose your case. You may, however, have to pay the legal fees and expenses of the other side. Your solicitor will normally ask you to take out insurance to cover this situation. If you win your case, your solicitor's fees and expenses will normally be paid by the other side.
For more information about conditional fee agreements, see Using a solicitor .
If you are considering taking legal action and you have not yet been to a solicitor you may want to seek advice about possible sources of help with legal costs from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB .
Choosing a solicitor
If you want to take legal action over a personal injury you should consult a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s personal injury accreditation scheme or clinical negligence accreditation scheme, depending on the nature of the injury. The Law Society can give details of solicitors on these accreditation schemes and can be contacted at: