Introduction to serious injury compensation claims
This easy-to-follow guide sets out everything you should know about making a successful serious injury compensation claim.
The Courts recognise that serious injury can have a major, life-altering impact regardless of its cause or an individual's circumstances.
Under UK law, there is not a clear-cut definition of 'serious injury'. For the purposes of road traffic data, serious injuries are considered to be those that require the injured person to be treated in hospital as an 'in-patient'. According to Department of Transport data, over 21,000 people were seriously injured in road traffic accidents in 2013.
The Courts do not relay on a standard definition when making compensation awards, however. Awards and settlements are agreed based on the impact an injury has had on the life of the injured person and on their family.
In order to claim for compensation, your injury must have occurred within the last three years, as the result of the actions or negligence of someone else.
For the purposes of a compensation claim, the party responsible for your injury is referred to as the defendant or the 'other side'.
Time limits for serious injury compensation claims
It may be possible to claim for an injury or illness that was caused before the three-year limit, provided that you only became aware of it in the last three years. This 'date of discovery' is often the date that you receive your diagnosis.
For more information, you can discuss your circumstances on a confidential basis with a specialist solicitor. Contact Quittance on 0800 612 7456 for a no-obligation consultation.
To make a successful claim, it will need to be proven that, on the balance of probabilities, those responsible for your injuries owed you a duty of care.
Can compensation be claimed for a serious injury if both sides are partly responsible?
In circumstances where both sides are partly responsible for the claimant's injury, it may still be possible to claim compensation.
In these circumstances, the claimant is unlikely to get the same amount of compensation that they would have received if they were entirely blameless.
Compensation is awarded in proportion to the apportionment of responsibility. For example, if a Court determines that the claimant was 25% responsible for an accident or their injuries, the compensation they are awarded will be 25% less that it would have been otherwise.
Cases like this are often resolved with what are called 'split-liability agreements'.
I have a strong claim - why won't a solicitor take it on?
The essential principle of compensation is that it should try to put injured parties back in the position they would have been in if the accident or illness never happened.
Financial compensation can only ever go so far in respect of truly compensating a person in this situation, and the Courts recognise that this is particularly true in the case of serious injuries.
It recognition of the fact that serious injuries have a life-altering impact, a personal injury award or settlement will include compensation for:
- pain, suffering and loss of amenity arising from your injuries
- lost earnings if you have had to take time off work
- future loss of earnings if you are unable to return to work
- the cost of medical treatment and future care relating to your injuries
- expenses such as travel costs to and from hospital
Loss of amenity includes loss or reduction of a claimant's mental or physical capacity to do the things he or she used to do before the injury. This can take into account hobbies such as no longer being able to play a musical instrument, go sailing or rock-climbing.
The assessment of an award in such situations is based on an objective view of the value of the loss of these amenities to the claimant.
Before starting a claim for compensation, an expert injury lawyer can discuss your potential claim with you and will explain your options.
Quittance's solicitors understand the need to allow you to focus on your treatment and, where possible, your recovery. They will take care of the legal process accordingly and will advice you on every stage of the process.
Quittance's solicitors have assisted claimants receive compensation for serious injuries including:
- broken arms and legs
- head injuries
- scars and burns
- spinal injury
- industrial disease, including mesothelioma, dermatitis and noise-induced deafness
Compensation is usually settled before formal legal action commences and there is rarely the need to go to Court.
Guidelines for compensation awards are set by the Judicial College (formerly the Judicial Studies Board). An amount is recommended with respect to the extent of a given injury. In the guidelines, compensation amounts take the form of minimum and maximum values for specific injuries.
The guidelines do not recognise a general definition for 'serious injury', but compensation is generally higher where the nature of an injury is more serious or the symptoms are worse.
For example, the upper limit for an injury causing breathlessness that is expected to recover in a few years is £16,830. The maximum compensation for serious lung disease in a younger person is £110,000.
Insurances companies, solicitors and the Courts will follow the guidelines in the majority of cases when assessing compensation.
A Compensation Claims Report will include a in-depth assessment and calculation of the compensation you claim could be worth by referring to these guidelines as well as a number of other factors specific to your accident and illness.
Lost earnings (including future loss of earnings while you are unable to work), expenses resulting from the accident or illness, and medical treatment costs can also be compensated. These are referred to as special damages.
Once the facts are established, many claims for minor injuries are straightforward and financial compensation is awarded in a matter of months.
Claims where the facts are less clear, or where the injury is more serious, can take more time to resolve.
In such cases, interim payments are often negotiated. These payments assist with the claimant's living costs and treatment and help to ensure that the claimant isn't pressured into accepting a lower settlement offer by the need to cover outgoings such as mortgage payments.
Given the factors involved, it is difficult to predict how long will be needed to negotiate a settlement. Your solicitor may advise you not to accept an insurance company's first offer, with a view to gathering more evidence to negotiate for a more appropriate figure.
The claim has a good chance of success if the other side has acknowledged that they are responsible for your injuries.
Where the other side has not admitted liability, or argues that you were partly to blame for your injuries, there may be a lower chance of success.
Regardless of whether liability is accepted, you should do what you can to strengthen your case. Your solicitor will advise on a recommended course of action, including advising that you could:
- report the accident as appropriate (e.g. to your employer if you are injured at work)
- make a record of the accident or cause of your injuries in as much detail as you can
- take names and addresses or contact details of any witnesses
- if applicable, take photographs of the scene of the accident
It is worth considering the above and doing everything you can to build a stronger case.
Road traffic accident claims
Every year almost 200,000* people are injured on Britain's roads. If you have been injured in a road accident that was not your fault, you can claim compensation.
Find out more about claiming serious injury claims compensation for a road accident: Read more about road accident claims
*Source: Official Department of Transport statistics (gov.uk)
Accidents at work - Claims against your employer
Every year, 600,000* employees are injured in accidents at work. If you have suffered an injury or illness at work, you may able to claim compensation.
Find out if you can claim serious injury compensation from your employer: Read more about work accident claims
*Source: 2016/17 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report
The national panel of QLS solicitors take on all types of personal injury claims, from more minor injury cases to long-term injuries. Selected for their success rate in winning claims, QLS's solicitors have years of dedicated experience handling claims on behalf of injured claimants.
Personal injury solicitors now work on a No Win, No Fee basis.
No Win, No Fee means that if your claim is not successful, you will not need to pay any legal fees.
If you do win your case, a success fee will be deducted from the compensation award and paid to your solicitor.