If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you would like to find out if you have a valid claim for compensation, the first task will be to discuss the accident with some personal injury solicitors. This will be the case whether you have had an accident at work, been injured in a car accident, have been the victim of medical negligence or have slipped on a wet floor in a shop.
Choosing a personal injury solicitor
As with all professional services, it is worth speaking to at least two or three different firms before you decide who to hire. This will not only give you an understanding of the services being offered by each firm, but it is also an opportunity for you to find out how you actually get on with them.
This is often overlooked, but as the claims process can take anywhere from six weeks to over a year to complete, it is important that you feel comfortable and confident in your chosen injury lawyer.
For each firm you contact, you should be provided with a free consultation. This is where the firm will discuss your accident and the injury or injuries you have suffered and will determine if you have a valid case.
During the consultation phase, it is a good idea to ask a few questions to help you decide who to hire. Some of the questions you might want to ask include whether they will offer a no win no fee service, have they worked on similar cases in the past and what will be the success fee will they charge if the case is won?
Once you have chosen the solicitors you want to hire for your case, you will be sent some paperwork that you will need to sign. This will include the no win no fee agreement, also known as a conditional fee agreement (CFA). This will need to be signed and returned, and officially instructs and authorises the particular firm to act on your behalf.
Gathering evidence to support your claim
After being officially instructed as your representative, your personal injury solicitor will begin the process of gathering evidence and information to support your case.
What evidence is collected will largely depend on the type of accident you have had. Examples of possible evidence could include photographs, witness statements, medical records, police reports and accident records.
All personal injury claims will also need medical evidence to confirm the type of injury or illness you sustained, as well as any ongoing issues. For example, will you need to have physiotherapy, are you going to be left with any permanent pain or difficulty carrying out certain tasks, etc.
The details of your claim are recorded in a letter of claim, which is sent to the defendant. This confirms that a personal injury claim is being made against them, the accident they are being held responsible for and the injuries that have been suffered.
The defendant, or most likely their insurance company, will then have to decide whether to accept or dispute liability for the accident.
Negotiating a suitable compensation award
If the defendant accepts liability for the accident, the next step will be for both parties to begin the negotiations for how much compensation the claimant should be awarded.
The amount of compensation will be based on an assessment of the injuries you have suffered, the impact on your life and any financial losses you have faced. Perhaps you have had to take time off work, had to pay for medical treatment or have needed to spend money on taxis to transport you to and from doctors appointments.
In some cases, the defendant may accept the amount of compensation being asked for by your solicitor. But in most cases, there will be some back and forth negotiations before a settlement agreement can be reached.
Once an agreement has been made, the case will be concluded, and you will receive your compensation award. Your solicitor will take their success fee from the payment before the balance is forwarded on to you. The success fee would be agreed with you in advance and can be a maximum amount of 25%.
Taking court action for personal injury
The vast majority of claims for personal injury and medical negligence are settled without any need for court involvement. One of the key reasons for this is the huge legal costs that can be incurred by going to court.
However, there are situations where court action may be needed. The first of these is if the defendant denies liability for the accident or injury. The second is where the defendant accepts liability for the accident, but an agreement cannot be reached regarding the settlement award.
If the courts are required, your injury lawyer will be there to provide you with advice and guidance along the way. If the decision goes in your favour, you will then receive your compensation, and the case will be closed.