**This article was updated in February 2019**
Despite the impression you may get from the media, people don’t make personal injury claims every day. Clients often ask us to explain what actually happens when somebody makes a claim. So we have put together this outline of the claims procedure. Hopefully, it will give you a helpful idea of how the procedure works and also illustrate some requirements for building a strong case.
No two cases are exactly the same and the procedure your claim may actually take will depend upon your circumstances. As such, the details we have provided here only give a general overview of what happens in a personal injury claim.
Time limits to making a personal injury claim
The general rule is that a personal injury compensation claim must be started at court within three years of the date of your injury. There are exceptions to this for children and ‘Protected Persons’:
- For children, the time limit is also three years, but the three-year period does not start until the child reaches the age of 18.
- For ‘Protected Persons’ (defined in the Limitation Act 1980 as people who are incapable of managing their property and affairs due to mental disorder), court proceedings must be issued within three years from the date when the person ceased to be under a disability. If the Protected Person never becomes sufficiently mentally able to bring proceedings for themselves, there is usually no time limit for commencing the claim.
Failure to settle your claim or start court proceedings within these timescales may mean you are unable to claim compensation.
What can you claim for in a personal injury claim?
The compensation you claim for is sometimes termed ‘damages’. There are two different kinds of damages:
- General Damages – These cover the injuries you have sustained as a result of the accident. This includes physical and psychological injuries.
- Special Damages – These are any losses that you have incurred as a consequence of the accident or your injury. Examples of special damages include:
- Treatment costs, for example, physiotherapy fees.
- Loss of earnings.
- Travel and mileage expenses.
- Care and assistance.
- Medication costs.
- Lost gym memberships fees etc.
It is important to retain any documents which relate to your special damages (such as receipts and invoices), as they will help to prove you have incurred these losses.
For more information on damages and the different kinds of losses you can include in a personal injury claim, download our free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Injury Compensation.
Building your claim
To establish the details of your case, we will need to know:
- The date of the accident and where and how it happened.
- The contact details for any witnesses.
- The details of your injuries, medical diagnosis, and any treatment received.
- Whether you are a member of a Trade Union or you have legal expenses insurance policies. This may entitle you to reduced-cost legal representation.
We may also need to see:
- Proof of your loss of earnings and other financial expenses that are attributable to your injury.
- Documents relating to any insurance policies you have (such as household or motor insurance) to check whether these will cover the legal costs of your claim.
- Any evidence that will help to support your claim, including documents from before your accident or previous accidents in similar circumstances.
Disclosing documents which relate to your claim
If you are in possession of documents that are relevant to your case, please provide us with copies of these at the earliest available opportunity. Certain procedural rules require that a party to a claim must disclose the following to all other parties in the claim:
- the documents upon which you rely.
- the documents which –
- adversely affect your own case;
- adversely affect another party’s case; or
- support another party’s case; and
- other documents which you are required to disclose by relevant procedural rules.
Supporting your injuries
If liability is admitted or we are of the opinion that your claim has good prospects of success (51% or more), we will arrange an appointment with an independent medical expert for you. This will be set for a time which is convenient to you and as close to your home or work as possible.
Read our article on what to expect from a medical appointment for more information.
Funding your claim and recovery
‘No Win, No Fee’ Agreements
A ‘No Win No Fee’ Agreement (technically called a Conditional Fee Agreement) allows you and your solicitors to ‘share the risk’ of making a personal injury claim. The agreement allows for part, or sometimes even all, of the solicitors’ fees to only be payable by the client in the event that they are successful in recovering compensation.
Truth Legal is able to conduct most personal injury claims by ‘No Win No Fee’ Agreements. This means that we will only deduct money from your compensation if your claim is successful.
Often people who have had accidents require physiotherapy or another form of medical treatment to aid their recovery. We can frequently arrange this on your behalf, with no extra cost to you. The treatment costs are then included in your personal injury claim and recovered from the Defendant. Alternatively, the Defendant may be able to arrange and pay for treatment for you from the outset.
The Claims Procedure
Option 1: Submitting a claim through the Online Claims Portal
The Ministry of Justice’s Online Claims Portal is intended to manage personal injury claims quickly and efficiently. Road Traffic Accident claims, Employers’ Liability claims and Occupiers’ Liability claims are all dealt with using the Portal. Tight deadlines are imposed throughout the Portal process in a bid to reduce the costs involved.
The Portal is essentially a system of notifications and responses. Both parties input information through the Portal in accordance with various timescales. The party which receives the information can then access it and send their responses.
However, the Portal is not designed to deal with complex or high-value claims. See Option 2 (below) for how they are dealt with.
Stage 1 – Submitting the Claim Notification Form
When you begin your claim for compensation we must register it on the Portal by completing and submitting a Claim Notification Form (CNF). The CNF must include sufficient information for the Defendant to investigate your claim. If the Defendant admits liability (legal blame) in your case, the claim will stay within the Portal. If they deny liability, or allege that you were also partially at fault, the claim ‘falls out’ of the Portal, to be dealt through normal correspondence between the two sides. See Option 2 below.
Claims can also be removed from the Portal if there are complex issues of law or fact.
Stage 2 – Admission of liability
Where liability has been admitted, the claim will continue to be dealt with through the Portal. This can be used to deal with settlement of the claim very quickly and cheaply.
We are obliged to provide evidence in support of your claim for damages, including any medical evidence and evidence in support of special damages. This is described as the ‘Stage 2 Settlement Pack’. It can include:
- a medical report or reports;
- evidence of financial losses;
- evidence of certain expenses incurred in your claim (such as the cost of any medical reports);
- any medical records and/or photographs accompanying the medical reports;
- any witness statements;
- an offer of settlement.
When the Defendant receives the Stage 2 Settlement Pack, they have 15 days to make an offer to settle your claim or agree to any offer that may have been included. A further 20 days is then allowed for negotiations between the parties. Any counter-offers that the Defendant makes must also explain the reason for any reductions made to the compensation amounts.
If a settlement offer is agreed, the Defendant must pay the agreed compensation within 10 days of the agreement.
As with Stage 1, if time limits are missed, the claim can ‘fall out’ of the Portal, which may lead to increased costs for the Defendant.
Within Stage 2, we may be able to seek an additional medical report, if necessary. We may also be able to instruct non-medical experts if they are required to value your claim.
If a further medical report is necessary, we can request an ‘interim payment’ from the Defendant using an ‘Interim Settlement Pack’ (ISP). This is a payment which is made whilst a personal injury claim is still ongoing, i.e. before it has been settled.
Failure to settle
If the parties cannot agree a settlement within the time limits, then we will send a ‘Court Proceedings Pack’ (CPP) to the Defendant.
The CPP must include the full and final details of your losses and the Defendant’s response to this, along with comments made by both parties. It will also include the final offers of settlement made by each party.
The Defendant has five days in which to check the CPP and request any amendments they wish to be made. Within 15 days of receiving the CPP, the Defendant must also pay to you:-
- the Defendant’s final offer of damages which they made, less any deductible amounts such as any interim payments you have received; and
- any unpaid fixed legal costs and certain expenses incurred in the claim.
Again, if these deadlines are missed, we can give notice to the Defendant that the matter is no longer within the Portal and court proceedings will be started.
Option 2: Submitting a Letter of Claim
The Letter of Claim
For personal injury claims which cannot be dealt with through the Portal (or which later ‘fall out’ of the Portal procedure), a claim is started by sending a Letter of Claim to the Defendant. Some examples of a Letter of Claim can be found in our free online Legal Library.
A Letter of Claim sets out the details of your injury and the circumstances in which it took place. If you need an expert opinion to support your claim – from a doctor, for example, we will suggest a relevant specialist.
The Defendant then has to investigate and reply to the Letter of Claim within a fixed period – usually no more than three months. In the Defendant’s reply, they must say whether they accept or deny liability for your injury. If they accept liability, we will try to settle the matter without court proceedings.
Making an Offer
Using your medical report(s) to guide us, we will value your personal injury claim and advise you on its potential value. We may also ask you to give an indication of the level of compensation you are prepared to accept, and whether you want to make an ‘offer to settle’ for that amount. This is known as a ‘Part 36 offer’.
We will advise you on whether to make a Part 36 offer and how this would affect you. If the Defendant responds reasonably to this offer and agrees a figure, you can settle the matter without going to court. In some situations, the Defendant may reply with their own Part 36 offer. If this happens, we will provide advice.
If we cannot settle your claim for an appropriate amount, we will advise you on whether you should begin court proceedings in your claim. This may result in your claim being decided by a judge at a hearing. However, even if court proceedings are started, your claim can still be settled by agreement between the parties before a hearing takes place.
Court claims procedure is a huge topic and one which is unfortunately outside the scope of this article.
Finding out more
For more information on making a personal injury claim, please do not hesitate to contact us. At Truth Legal, we are personal injury specialists. We are more than happy to discuss your circumstances in a free consultation, with no obligation upon you to take matters any further.