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Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

Dealing with serious injuries

The aim of this document is to accompany the practitioners’ guide to the conduct of cases involving serious injury. The serious injury guide was developed by claimant and defendant lawyers, and insurers to assist with the handling of serious injury cases. It puts in place a process that meets the needs of the injured person. Lawyers and insurers dealing with serious injury claims in accordance with that guide have agreed to work together in a collaborative and less litigious way for the benefit of the injured claimant. The aim is to put the injured person at the centre of the claims process to ensure that their needs are met.

Introduction

Making a claim for compensation is not a decision that people take lightly. When you or a member of your family has been seriously injured it can be a stressful and worrying time. Most people deciding whether or not to make a claim are not familiar with what the process will involve. This fact sheet aims to provide you with information on what you can expect if you pursue a claim for serious injuries.

Finding an accredited lawyer

You may be reading this guide because you have already found an APIL accredited lawyer. If not our injury lawyer search can put you in touch with a specialist that can help. APIL is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, and is dedicated to, amongst other things, improving services provided to victims of personal injury. Our injury lawyers are professionally accredited and have satisfied comprehensive criteria to ensure that they have the necessary experience and are up to date with the latest legal developments. Many of APIL’s accredited lawyers specialise in particular types of case. APIL specialist accreditation provides quality marks of competence and specialist expertise for lawyers with expertise in brain injury and spinal cord injury. Specialist accreditation shows that an APIL accredited specialist lawyer has achieved a very high standard of expertise and competence and actually specialises in this area of the law.

Contacting your lawyer

APIL aims to put you in touch directly with a suitably qualified lawyer from the outset of your claim. That lawyer will gather information from you about your accident and in most cases will be able to give you an indication during that discussion, whether you can make a claim for compensation. Once that initial discussion has taken place, your lawyer will usually arrange to visit you to gather more information about your claim.

Making a claim

People are often unsure as to whether they have a case or not. To recover compensation you will need to show it is more likely than not that:

  • The accident that occurred was wholly or partially caused by the negligence of the other party;
  • That the accident caused the injury and losses sustained;
  • That the injury and losses sustained were reasonably foreseeable as a result of the other party’s negligence.

This will not always be straightforward but your lawyer will guide you through the process.

Most cases are resolved without the need to go to court. Instead, your lawyer will negotiate with the lawyer or insurer representing the defendant, and they will come to a resolution.

Next steps

Your lawyer is there to make pursuing your claim as easy as possible. Once they have taken full instructions from you and provided you with initial advice about your claim, they will write to you to confirm this information and confirm the next steps of the process.

Early notification

They will write an early notification letter to the insurers acting on behalf of the defendant. The aim is to alert the defendant as soon as possible about the claim. This will enable the insurers to investigate the circumstances of your claim promptly and appoint a dedicated claims handler with whom your lawyer will have regular contact.

Insurer’s response

Within the guide the defendant gives a commitment to responding to your lawyer within 28 days of receiving the early notification letter. This will allow your lawyer and the insurers to discuss whether responsibility for the accident is accepted, whether any rehabilitation or immediate needs have been identified and to agree when they will speak again about your claim.

Agreeing a timeframe for discussing next steps in your claim will ensure that your claim proceeds as quickly as possible.

Getting treatment and care

Following a life changing injury, your daily routine can be more challenging. One of the main aims of the serious injury guide is to help you, the claimant, access the treatment and care that you require early on, to help you get your life back on track as soon as possible. Specialist care and treatment may still be necessary after discharge from hospital. In order to find out what kind of specialist medical assistance you will require your lawyer may send you for an early medical assessment.

As soon as possible, but usually after liability has been admitted, a case manager with experience of your type of injury will be appointed. Your case manager in conjunction with your lawyer will access carers and any support workers that you need and will co-ordinate treatment, including therapies. They will also be responsible for co-ordinating any care and support that you require on a long-term basis. The cost of this help will be paid by the defendant’s insurance company.

An interim payment may be requested to cover the cost of any immediate assistance required. The money can be used to pay for private medical treatments, loss of earnings and to set up a care regime. Your lawyer will speak to you about how this can be arranged.

What will it cost?

There are a number of different ways in which legal advice can be funded and your lawyer will advise on the most suitable option for you.

Most personal injury claims are funded by conditional fee agreements previously referred to as “no win no fee”. This is a written agreement whereby your lawyer’s legal fees only become payable in certain circumstances. In most cases an after the event insurance policy should be taken out to support a conditional fee agreement. A conditional fee agreement will not cover all costs - for example, it may not cover money paid to a medical expert or the other side's legal costs in the event that your claim is unsuccessful.

After the event insurance policies should usually be taken out around the time that the legal action begins. The premium can sometimes be deferred to the conclusion of the claim. Your APIL accredited lawyer will explain to you what exactly you will need to pay and when, as these circumstances will depend on the type of agreement entered into.

More information can be found on our how much will is cost page.

How much compensation will I receive?

It is understandable that you will want to know how much compensation you can expect to recover. You lawyer will often try to give you a rough idea at the outset of your claim but claiming for a serious injury is not straightforward. Each case will be different as it will depend on the extent of your injuries and your individual needs. Compensation can be awarded for both your injury (general damages) and for past and future financial losses.

It often involves gathering detailed evidence about loss of earnings, the cost of care, any housing adaptations or aids you may require to make daily living easier. Until this evidence is obtained, your lawyer will be unable to provide you with a more accurate figure.

How long will it take for my case to resolve?

It is not easy to say with any certainty how long your case will take to resolve. This depends on lots of factors including the severity of your injury, the amount of care and treatment you require and how quickly liability is admitted for the accident occurring. Sometimes it can take many years for the effects of serious injury to be fully investigated, particularly if treatment is on-going or the prospects of recovery are uncertain.

Your lawyer will update you at regular intervals and provide you with a timeframe as to what you can expect to happen next with your claim.

Will I have to go to court?

Most cases resolve without the need to go to trial. However, disputes do often arise between the parties involved in the process. For example there may be a dispute about the frequency of care that you require or, in a catastrophic case, life expectancy. One of the purposes of the serious injury guide is to ensure ongoing dialogue between the parties in the hope that most issues can be resolved by negotiation. Sometimes disputes cannot be resolved through discussion and other methods of resolving the dispute will be considered by the parties before you and your lawyer make a decision about whether or not your case should be pursued through the courts to allow a judge to resolve the issues in dispute.