How long will my personal injury compensation claim take?

Although it may be possible to get an early interim compensation payment, how long an injury claim will take before compensation is paid out in full can vary.

Injured man waiting for compensation

Straightforward car accident claims can settle in a matter of weeks, whereas complex medical negligence cases can take years.

Injury claims can also take longer if it is not clear who is responsible for your injury, or if liability is denied by the defendant.

This table sets out approximately how long personal injury claims take to settle:

Personal injury claim type

Estimated claim duration*

Road accident claims (e.g. whiplash claims)

4 to 9 months

Work accident claims

6 to 9 months

Medical negligence claims

12 to 36 months

Industrial disease claims

12 to 18 months

Public place or occupiers’ liability claims

6 to 9 months

MIB claims (uninsured drivers)

3 to 4 months**

CICA claims (criminal assault)

12 to 18 months**

*RTA and other claims processed through the Ministry of Justice portal can settle faster.
**Official Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Government agency and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) figures.

Factors affecting claim duration

There are a number of factors that can affect the length of time a claim takes to complete. These include:

  • the type and seriousness of the injuries or illness
  • the circumstances of the accident
  • the time it takes to gather medical evidence
  • whether the other side accepts liability
  • whether the identity of the other side is known

Your solicitor will advise on which of these issues may affect the time your claim takes to complete.

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How does my injury affect the claim duration?

The type of injury or illness a claimant has sustained is a key factor.

To ensure claimants receive maximum compensation, solicitors may recommend that a claim be settled only when the extent of the injuries are fully understood and recorded.

A local medical professional nominated by your solicitor will diagnose and document your injuries. This could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. In exceptionally complex cases this could be an ongoing process that takes years.

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How do the accident circumstances affect the claim duration?

Road traffic, Employer's Lliability and Public liability claims

If the value of claims for damages is less than £25,000 and the claim relates to a road traffic accident, employer's liability or public liability, the claim will now be processed in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol, through the online Ministry of Justice Claims Portal.

Through the Pre-Action Protocol, the defendant's insurer has a 'total consideration period' of 35 days in which to consider the evidence and make an offer. These time limits are subject to various conditions and may be extended.

Claims settled through the Claims Portal should take around 4 to 9 months, assuming a settlement offer is accepted by the claimant.

Medical negligence claims

Medical negligence claims are typically more complicated and involved.

It is more difficult to provide a claim length estimate without an initial claim assessment. As a very rough guide , a claim may take 6 to 12 months if liability is accepted by the treatment or care provider immediately.

If liability is disputed, it could take 12 to 18 months for more complicated claims. Very complex cases can take significantly longer.

Industrial Disease

Industrial disease claims can be settled relatively quickly if liability is accepted.

Some claims may however take significantly longer, particularly if it is difficult to identify the employer responsible for the claimant’s illness.

If a definitive medical prognosis has been made, the claim length should fall within the normal range. However, if the prognosis or extent of the illness is unknown, this can protract the claim.

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How long does it take to receive an offer of compensation?

Compensation offers can be made by the defendant, or their insurance company, at any time.

Insurance companies will often make a ‘low-ball’ offer before the claimant has even instructed a personal injury solicitor. Insurance companies do this with the commercial intent of settling for less money.

Most cases taken on by solicitors are where the defendant appears to be liable. Most defendants will want to avoid the expense of court action and once their insurance company realises the liability position, they will usually make an offer quickly.

At the other end of the spectrum are complex cases where there may be split liability and there is a dispute on how to apportion blame fairly to each side.

See:

How long does it take to get compensation after accepting an offer?

Once an insurance company has admitted liability and agreed to process the claim, they tend to move quickly. Some claimants receive their compensation in a few days.

More commonly, the payment is processed within 2 and 4 weeks.

How long does a child injury claim take to settle?

In cases involving children or vulnerable people, the agreed settlement or award must be approved by the Court.

In practice, this process is merely a formality and will not usually cause serious delays for the payment of compensation.

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Will the claim be delayed if the other side does not accept liability?

If the other side (the defendant) accepts liability quickly, it will usually be possible to settle the claim in a short period of time, without the need to go to Court.

If the other side does not accept liability, or does not offer a reasonable settlement, a solicitor may need to take court action on behalf of their client. Going to court can take more time, but it may be the difference between winning and losing a claim.

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What if I just want to settle as quickly as possible?

Solicitors are there to give you advice so you are able to make better-informed choices. This advice may include help with understanding when to accept a settlement amount offered by the other side.

You are entitled to settle and end your claim whenever you wish. You can accept a first offer as soon as it is made, or instruct your solicitor to try to negotiate for a higher amount. It may be prudent to wait for additional medical evidence to support your claim.

Be aware that, while you negotiate, additional evidence may come to light that might reduce the offer made by the other side.

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What can I do to speed up a claim?

There are a number of things you can do to speed up the time it takes to agree a settlement and receive your pay out.  For more information

See: What can I do to speed up my personal injury claim? 

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After a medical how long does a compensation claim take?

Your solicitor will arrange for a medical examination to assess the extent of your injury. The medical will be carried out by a local, independent medical expert who will produce a report on the extent of your injuries.

This report is a critical piece of evidence in support of your claim and is used to calculate your compensation.

What is in the medical report?

The medical report assesses:

  • The nature and seriousness of your injuries
  • An estimated recovery time (the prognosis)
  • Recommendations for further investigation or specialist assessment
  • Treatment options

Compensation is calculated based on the contents of the medical report. A claim may take longer to complete if the report is disputed by the defendant’s solicitors or insurer, or further medical evidence is required.

See: Will I need a medical exam if claiming compensation?

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Can I get interim payments paid out sooner?

An interim payment describes when part of a likely compensation award is paid in advance.

Interim payments can be awarded when the claimant is unable to work due to their injuries, or if they need to cover urgent expenses such as treatment or car repairs.

It may be possible to negotiate an interim payment with the insurance company. If the insurance company does not agree, you can insist on an interim payment if:

  • liability has been accepted or established
  • the court is satisfied that compensation would be paid if the case went to court
  • court proceedings have been initiated and the court believes that compensation exceeding the interim payment is likely

See: Can I get interim compensation payments?

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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