Common misconceptions and errors that injury claimants make
When pursuing a personal injury claim, there are many potential pitfalls that can catch out a claimant's or even affect the outcome of the case.
Here is a rundown of the most common mistakes personal injury claimants make.
Failing to collate evidence
Thinking ahead may not be the easiest thing to do when your accident has just happened, but if you are physically and mentally well enough to gather evidence at the scene, you should.
If this accident was not your fault, anything you can use to prove this will strengthen your case.
- Talk to witnesses and get their contact details
- Take photos and video footage on your phone
- Note the details of the weather, the time, the conditions in which the accident happened
- Write everything down if you can.
- Ask local shops and businesses if they have CCTV footage.
If you are unable to do this, is there anyone on the scene who could do it for you?
Underestimating your solicitor’s workload
Depending on the type of case, some a personal injury solicitors handle hundreds of claims at a time, so do not assume they are focusing solely on your case.
In the case of road traffic accidents, the fast track claims portal process means that your case may be being handled by a paralegal with an even higher number of files.
A bit of upwards management can help ensure that you remain top of mind with your solicitor.
It is unlikely (but not unheard of) that your case will be forgotten. Staying in regular contact with your solicitor to ensure you remain on their radar and keep you in the loop.
Ask for updates and get anything they require from you over as soon as you can to keep the momentum of your case going.
Agreeing to a settlement too early
Before you settle your claim, you should be as certain as possible about the extent and prognosis of your injuries (both physical and psychological).
Let us suppose you are told by a medical expert that you should make a complete recovery within eighteen months, and you settle your claim immediately. After eighteen months passes you may find your injuries have not resolved after all, and that your claim was worth more.
Before you agree to a settlement, ensure all the medical evidence relating to your injuries, including the prognosis for recovery, is final.
If an insurer offers you an immediate settlement before medical evidence has been gathered regarding your injuries, hold off if you can. A claim is nigh on impossible to value without medical reports.
Insurance companies are good at offering low-ball offers, especially if they sense that you need the money for immediate treatment or living expenses. If you do need the money urgently, speak to your solicitor about securing an interim payment.
Relying solely on a GP diagnosis
Injuries resulting from an accident can be complex, so if you are not referred to a consultant who specialises in the trauma you have suffered you should make a referral request.
GPs have a wide body of knowledge but may still misdiagnose the injury or illness. You should always seek the opinion of a specialist or consultant.
Failing to report all your symptoms
You should explain all of your symptoms, in detail, to anyone giving you medical attention and your solicitor.
Tell them everything you are experiencing as a result of your accident, be this physically or mentally.
Psychological damage can sometimes be more severe and longer term than physical injury, so be open about any behavioural changes you have experienced; flashbacks, anxiety, depression or memory loss for example.
If you miss something out and it is not logged in a report, this could reduce the value of your claim. Volunteer all physical and psychological symptoms to your solicitor and medical experts, do not wait to be asked.
Failing to keep track of financial losses resulting from the accident
Every small thing that costs you money due to your injuries should be recorded. Keep receipts, parking tickets and make notes.
Any expenses or losses incurred as a result of then injury, no matter how small, should be claimable.
Examples of claimable expenditure may include:
- taxi or public transport fares if you are unable to drive due to your injuries
- parking tickets paid for during hospital visits or other therapies you have required
- costs incurred by friends or relatives who have had to help and support you during recovery
- takeaways bought because you are unable to cook
- domestic help if you can no longer manage housework
If in doubt, keep a record and send all you have to your solicitor.
Underestimating the complexity of the process
With so much advertising showing someone slipping over then three seconds later receiving a cheque, you could be forgiven for thinking that claiming compensation is a piece of cake.
Often, it isn’t. It can be a drawn out, stressful and emotional process with an uncertain outcome.
You should discuss the process in full with your personal injury solicitor; some cases are more complex than others, and you can never predict how the party you are claiming against will fight their corner.
Worrying about facing a jury
Only a very small percentage of personal injury claims go to court, and if they do they will be held in front of a judge, not a jury. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.
Feeling too self-conscious to ask questions
You are not a personal injury solicitor, and the claims process is complicated.
If there is anything you do not understand, don’t stew over it - ask your solicitor. No question is a stupid question, this is your claim and it is important you feel completely in the loop about how it is progressing.
Failing to shop around for the best personal injury solicitor
It is not advisable to pursue a compensation claim without a solicitor; the process is highly complex, and you need someone on your side who knows it inside out.
You should take the time to find a personal injury solicitor who you feel has the most relevant experience and will be the most proactive.
Ask your solicitor:
- Have you taken on a case like mine before?
- What is your track record in winning claims?
- How many clients are you dealing with?
- Will you deal directly with my case, or might it be passed to a paralegal?
- How will my personal injury case be funded - will it be on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis?
- How regularly can I expect updates on my claim, and what form will they take?
You need to find a solicitor you can trust, and who you know will be thorough and responsive throughout the claims process.
Get a recommendation if you can, and if possible former client reviews.