If you have suffered some sort of injury, you may be able to claim compensation under a personal injury claim.
Personal injuries can vary considerably, from what kind of injury they are to the situations they occur in.
A personal injury might, for example, be the result of a workplace accident, a road traffic accident, from something that happens when you’re on holiday, or even the result of tripping in the street.
If you are considering making a personal injury claim, it is important to first understand the following:
- What a personal injury is
- How much you can claim
- How long a claim is likely to take, and
- What proof you need to make a claim.
What is a Personal Injury?
Personal injury is a legal term, which describes an injury to a person, rather than to property where the accident is not their fault.
What does ‘personal injuries’ cover?
This definition covers various serious injuries, an includes accidents that happen:
- at work
- in the home
- on holiday.
Personal injury also covers injuries caused by:
- road traffic accidents
- criminal offences, such as assault
- medical negligence
- faulty goods or services
- incidents involving animals, such as horse-riding accidents or dog bites.
It can also cover psychological trauma resulting from personal injury, as well as physical harm from an accident or incident.
A major deciding factor in settling a personal injury claim is whether the injury is down to an accident or negligence.
Where an accident occurs and no one is at fault, you cannot claim compensation.
However, if the accident is the result of someone else’s negligence, then you can make a personal injury claim.
If you are involved in an incident where you get injured but no one could have reasonably predicted that this would happen, then you cannot hold someone else responsible.
Negligence, on the other hand, applies when someone else you come into contact with has a direct bearing on you receiving an injury in the first place.
For example, if someone drives into the back of your car and leaves you with whiplash injuries.
This principle also applies to places and buildings. If you have an injury at work due to your employer’s carelessness, then you can claim for personal injury.
It is everybody’s responsibility not to cause injury to anyone else needlessly. If you think you have suffered an injury and someone else is responsible, then you should consider making a personal injury claim.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Claim Take?
A claim for compensation under personal injury is a process. This process will be different depending on the nature of the injury and of the circumstances in which it occurred.
Consequently, predicting how long a claim will take to complete this process is difficult.
There are two key issues to consider here:
- Who is to blame for the accident and therefore the injury, and
- The evidence that can prove the accident caused the injury, and that assesses the damage caused to the individual.
In other words, the success of your personal injury claim rests on proving liability and providing medical evidence.
This is how the process works.
First, as the claimant, you must prove that the accident caused your injury. Usually this is done by obtaining a medical report.
But in some cases, there will be a need for more than one report and more than one expert medical opinion. For example, if your injury requires physiotherapy, you might need to undergo this before getting a medical expert’s final opinion on the overall effect of your injuries.
Usually, you would not expect to settle your claim until either you have made a full recovery, or you have a firm medical prognosis.
This prognosis is in the medical expert’s report. It will confirm the extent of your injuries, and when you recovered from them, or are likely to recover from them.
It will also state whether your injuries are likely to affect you in the future.
You settle your claim on a full and final basis, which means you cannot expect to be paid any further compensation in relation to this claim.
This is why it is so important that you wait for either a firm prognosis or for you to make a full recovery before settling your claim.
If you settled your claim before either of these things, then you would be at risk of under-settling it, and would then be unable to claim for further compensation, even if your injuries persisted or became worse.
Obviously, then, how long it takes to settle your personal injury claim depends to a large extent on how long it takes you to recover, or to receive a firm prognosis.
Your solicitor must calculate how much your pain and suffering are worth using the medical expert’s report.
It will mean them comparing your injuries to those of claimants in previous cases that have been settled, based on similarities in type of injury and recovery time. They will also consult the Judicial College guidelines to help work out how much your claim could be worth (see above).
Personal injury claims can also take time if there are complex issues around the severity of your injuries, or if the person or body you’re claiming against denies liability.
There will also be a period where your legal representative must complete settlement negotiations.
Because each case is different, settling your personal injury claim could take several weeks or several months. Some more complex cases may take a couple of years.
It comes down to the extent of your injuries, your recovery time and whether or not the liability of your accident goes into dispute.
How Much Can I Claim for Personal Injury?
If you are going to put in a personal injury claim, you want to have some idea of how much compensation you can claim for.
Calculating a compensation claim for personal injury is not always straightforward, simply because individual circumstances can vary considerably.
The main principle is that the amount of compensation you can claim is usually proportional to the extent of the injury you have sustained. Therefore, the more severe your injury and its physical and mental repercussions, the higher the amount of compensation you could receive.
A personal injury solicitor will calculate the appropriate personal injury compensation figure based on the nature of the injury and its impact on you.
There are various kinds of personal injury compensation:
- General damages claims – related to the individual’s pain and suffering.
- Loss of earnings claims – when the individual suffers loss of earnings due to not being able to work because of their injury.
- Out of pocket expenses – what it costs you in the process of getting injuries taken care of. This can include extra transportation and living costs, and other incidentals.
- Services compensation – if you require an extra level of care from a professional service. This may apply to family members if they need take on carer roles.
- Loss of society – this applies to people who lose a spouse, child or parent.
- Loss of support – where a family member who provides financially for the family dies, the remaining members may ask for compensation to cover this loss of financial support.
Compensation guidelines by type of personal injury
For individuals claiming for general damages, the Judicial College provides guidelines for personal injury awards.
These guidelines are updated regularly, but here are examples of the compensation payable to claimants for injuries in 2019:
- Moderate hearing loss: £11,890 – 23,670
- Simple nose fracture: £1,360 – £2,010
- Loss or damage to front teeth: £3,470 – £6,080
- Minor eye injury: £3,150 – £6,960
- Severe post traumatic stress disorder: £47,720 – £80,250
- Serious back injury: £59,120 – £79,490
- Whiplash (recovery between one and two years) : £3,470 – £6,290.
This is only a small sample of the various categories. These figures are only a guide when it comes to making a compensation claim, and individual circumstances will differ.
Within the broad category of general damages, compensation amounts for head and brain injuries range from £3,000 to upwards of £20,000 but can be far beyond this.
When it comes to mental or psychological injuries, the amount of compensation will depend on the degree of harm the individual is deemed to suffer, and whether this is going to be temporary or long-term.
Typically, amounts may range from £4,000 to £10,000, but for more severe mental or psychological injuries, compensation may be around £50,000.
Back injuries also range from mild and moderate to severe and permanent spinal injuries.
Less severe arm or wrist injuries may result in compensation between £3,000 and £10,000.
Lower body injuries can include injury to the ankles, knees, hips and legs. Less serious injuries may result in claims between £3,000 and £10,000, whereas more severe injuries resulting in permanent disability can reach at least £25,000.
What Proof Do I Need to Make a Claim?
Providing evidence is central to making a personal injury claim. Your personal injury solicitor will explain what evidence you need to provide, because the documents may differ depending on the circumstances of the individual claim.
There are two kinds of evidence you will need:
- Proof that someone else should be held responsible for your injury, and
- Proof of the losses you have suffered for which you are seeking compensation.
Importantly, at the start of the process, you will need documents that verify your identity and to ensure compliance with money laundering regulations.
Documents and evidence to prove someone else’s liability in your personal injury claim may include:
- Photographs of your injuries
- Photographs of the location of the accident
- Any written police reports from attending the scene of the accident, and
- Any documents you can provide from witnesses.
It is important to provide photographs of your injuries, because they will show the severity of the injuries shortly after the accident, which can be important if your claim is disputed.
Also, if you have been left with scars after the accident, photographs will show how these occurred in the first place.
If the person held responsible does not admit liability, then you may need to provide further evidence to the other party’s insurance company.
For example, in a road traffic accident claim, you might need to show a drawn diagram of vehicle positions and photographs of road markings at the location.
Or, if you’ve tripped over a raised paving stone, photographic evidence of this.
Another useful resource for evidence is if you keep a diary of the events. This should recall the circumstances leading up to the accident, and what you can remember of the accident itself.
But you should also record any conversations you had immediately after the accident with witnesses, or, if it is a workplace accident claim, conversations with your employer or colleagues.
Also make a note of calls or conversations you have had with your GP or from insurance companies.
If you receive any letters relating to your accident, make copies and send them to your solicitor as soon as possible.
Where family or friends have provided assistance related to your injuries, make a note of this too, even things like help with shopping or household chores, as well as transportation to hospital appointments.
If you are making an out of pocket claim for expenses you have incurred as a result of your injury, you must produce any relevant receipts, invoices or payslips.
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If you’ve been involved in an accident and sustained injuries and it was someone else’s fault, you may be able to make a personal injury claim.