What is the personal injury claims process?
There are several stages involved in making a personal injury claim.
At the outset of the claims process, you will speak to a claims expert about your options for compensation. Before you make a decision to claim, the advisor will explain how the process works, and answer any questions you have.
Once you are ready to proceed, you will instruct an injury lawyer to start your claim. You will need to give detailed information about your injury or illness and how it was caused.
Your lawyer will then arrange for a medical assessment, submit your claim against the party responsible, and negotiate a compensation settlement on your behalf.
The personal injury claims process can be daunting, but your solicitor will be with you at every stage to answer your questions. They will handle any complex issues that arise during your claim, and will ensure you receive the full compensation you need.
How does the injury claims process work?
1. You discuss your claim with a claims expert
The first stage of the claims process is to establish whether you have a claim, and what your chances of success are. Don't worry; you are not expected to do this yourself.
A claim specialist will ask you questions to determine if your case meets the following criteria:
- Your injury or illness happened in the last three years, and
- Another party was at fault (e.g. another driver, or your employer)
There are exceptions to the above criteria, especially for children, and you should still speak to an expert if you have any doubts or questions about your right to claim.
The specialist will discuss your accident and injuries with you, and will recommend the best course of action. In most cases, the next step will be to instruct an injury lawyer.
2. Your solicitor starts the No Win, No Fee claims process
If your claim meets the basic criteria set out above, your solicitor can start the No Win, No Fee claims process. Instructing a lawyer is a quick and straightforward process, and can usually be done by email or online. Some firms will accept an instruction by phone.
Once you have instructed a lawyer, you will be referred as the claimant.
After you instruct, your lawyer will take more detail regarding your injuries and how they were caused. The precise information your solicitor will need will vary, and you don't need to have everything ready at the start of your claim.
To get the claims process underway, your solicitor may need details like:
- The location of the accident
- Photos of the scene (if you have any)
- The contact details of any witnesses (if there were any)
- The crime reference number (if the incident was reported to the police)
The more information you can provide, the better. It is a good idea to write down everything you can remember about what happened as soon as you can.
3. Your solicitor arranges a medical assessment
Getting a medical assessment is probably the most important part of the claims process. Your solicitor will arrange an appointment for you with a qualified medical professional, usually a doctor, to assess the nature and severity of your injuries.
During the medical, the specialist will confirm the cause of your injuries, and will consider the impact of your injuries on your life, and how long symptoms are likely to last. The medical specialist will then write a detailed report which your solicitor will use to calculate how much compensation you should receive.
4. Your solicitor submits your injury claim
After arranging the medical and gathering other evidence, your solicitor will start the formal injury claims process. The details of the process vary depending on the circumstances of your injury, and on the total value of your claim.
Your solicitor will determine who is legally liable to pay you compensation. The party who is legally responsible is known as the 'defendant'. Your lawyer will notify the defendant and/or their insurance company of your claim.
5. Your solicitor negotiates your compensation
Assuming the defendant has accepted liability, their legal representative and your solicitor will negotiate a compensation settlement, using the medical assessment report and other evidence to prove your financial losses and the pain, suffering and 'loss of amenity' you have suffered.
During this stage, your solicitor may need to provide additional evidence, and an additional medical assessment may be required.
6. You accept a settlement
Once both your solicitor and the legal team acting for the defendant have agreed an amount of compensation, your solicitor will arrange for you to accept the agreed settlement.
Once you have accepted the proposed settlement amount, you cannot claim additional compensation later. You cannot start a second claim relating to the same accident or cause, even if your symptoms get much worse, or you are later diagnosed with additional injuries or a health condition.
If your symptoms are ongoing, your solicitor will advise you further regarding the best course of action.
7. You receive your compensation
Once you have agreed and accepted the settlement amount, your compensation will be paid quickly. Usually compensation is paid in a lump sum, however depending on the severity of your injuries and other factors, payments may be staggered.
Your solicitor will receive part of their fees out of the total compensation amount, and if you have already received an early, interim payment, this will also be deducted.
Will my claim go to court?
If the two sides cannot reach agreement about what your claim is worth, or if the defendant denies liability, the case may go to court. Less that 5% of cases do go to court, however, and it is unlikely that you would need to attend even if court action is required.
In the unlikely case that the case goes to court, the claim will proceed on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning you will not have to pay any legal fees if your claim is not successful.
Does the injury claim process depend on the type of accident or injury?
Sometimes, yes. The details of the claims process will usually depend on the seriousness of your injuries and the total value of the claim. However, some types of claim will follow a specific process:
Since 31 May 2021, the process for handling lower value driver and passenger road traffic accident (RTA) claims, has changed. These claims are now managed through the Ministry of Justice's Official Injury Claim Portal.
The small claims limit has been raised to £5,000 for most driver and passenger injury claims.
Road accident claims valued at less than £10,000, including both general damages and special damages, will now be processed using the small claims procedure.
These changes do not affect children, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Whiplash and soft tissue injuries
Following recent changes in the law, whiplash and similar soft tissue injuries that were caused after 31 May 2021 use a lower tariff to calculate compensation.
Accidents in public places
If you have been injured in a public place, such as a shop or park, the 'standard' process for making an injury claim applies.
A slip or trip accident claim, fall or other accident in a shop or other privately-owned business premises is referred to as 'occupier' liability claims'. Claims for accidents on public property, for example a park or pedestrianised zone operated by the local authority, are called 'public liability claims'.
The process for work accident claims is similar to that for claims in public places, with some caveats. If you are injured during the course of your work, wherever the accident happened, your injury claim may be made against your employer. All employers owe their staff a duty of care to provide a safe working environment.
A work accident claim is referred to as an 'employers liability claim'.
You might only learn you have been affected by industrial disease many years after the cause of your illness happened. The delay may mean that your employer, or their insurance company, has gone out of business. You can still claim compensation, but your solicitor will need to identify the party responsible for paying out compensation.
In some cases, liability may be split between several employers, if your illness was likely caused by working conditions at several companies you worked for, over time.
The clinical negligence claims process will often take longer than the process for other types of claim. This is partly because cases of medical negligence can be harder to prove, and may require additional expert opinion.
Claims against NHS Trusts will usually be delayed until the formal complaints procedure through NHS Resolution completes.
Other accidents and injuries
The process for making other types of injury claims, such as a dog attack or injury caused by a defective product, is largely 'standard', varying depending on the specific details of the case.
Does how much my claim is worth affect the process?
Yes. Specifically, the value of your claim will affect which 'track' is used to process your claim.
The Official Injury Claims Portal was launched in May 2021. The portal is an online application process for certain low-value injury claims. You can instruct a solicitor to apply for compensation using the portal.
You will need to use the online portal if:
- You were injured in a road accident, as the driver or passenger of a motor vehicle.
- Your accident happened after 31 May 2021.
- Your claim is valued at less than £5,000 for general damages, or £10,000 in total (your solicitor will help you to calculate this).
Small claims track
For other lower-value injury claims, the small claims track is used. This is often referred to as 'small claims court'. If you were not riding in a motor vehicle on the road when you were injured, and your claim is valued at less than £1,000, this track would apply.
Solicitors do not offer No Win, No Fee for small track claims. In practice, however, even very minor and short-term injuries are valued at more than the £1,000 limit, so very few injury claims follow this track.
The limit is set to rise to £1,500 in April 2022.
Most injury claims will be processed through the 'fast track' protocol. This track sets out a timeline of key steps, with deadlines that all sides must meet, to ensure claims are processed efficiently.
Claims valued up to £25,000 will follow the fast track.
The multi-track process is used for more serious injuries, valued at over £25,000.
The multi-track process has fewer strict deadlines and is less prescriptive than the fast track. This flexibility gives the claimant's and defendant's solicitors more time to discuss the claim, gather the required evidence, and negotiate compensation. This helps to ensure that claimants with serious and life-altering injuries receive the support and full compensation they need.
How to speed up the injury claims process
Although the speed at which the claims process progresses is largely out of your hands, there are some things you can do to cut down on delays:
- Instruct a solicitor as early as you can - It will be easier and faster for your lawyer to gather witness statements, CCTV and other evidence while they are still 'fresh'.
- Complete forms, sign documents and reply to questions as soon as you can - You should always prioritise your treatment and recovery, but don't leave your solicitor' requests unanswered. Prompt responses can shave weeks off the claims process, and will show your solicitor you are motivated to complete the process quickly.
- Gather evidence like witness statements, accident book report copies, photos of the scene of the accident. Again, this will save you having to do it later when your solicitor inevitably requests these details.
An interim payment is an early compensation payout made to an injured claimant before the final settlement is agreed. Interim payments are usually made if the defendant has accepted liability, and the claimant needs funds urgently to pay for treatment costs or other expenses.
Some particularly complex claims can take over a year to complete, and interim payments are often necessary if the injured claimant is unable to work for a long period of time.
If you think you may need an interim payment, you should discuss this with your solicitor at the outset of the claims process. Your lawyer will consider whether it will be possible to arrange an early payment, and negotiate this with the defendant' solicitor.
When will I know if my claim is successful?
In most cases, your solicitor will be able to tell you very early on in the claims process if you have a strong claim that is likely to be successful.
If the defendant has accepted liability for your accident, then it is usually not a question of “Will you win?” Instead, the question that your solicitor will need to negotiate is “Will you get the correct compensation?”.
As set out above, your solicitor will use their legal expertise, practical experience, medical evidence and other supporting evidence to negotiate a successful settlement.
If the defendant denies liability, then the outcome will usually be more uncertain. Even in these cases, however, insurance companies are usually eager to avoid costly court fees. If there is a chance they will lose in court, an insurer can end up paying out much more in fees than they would have to settle your injury claim.
Your solicitor will advise you further on this point.
When will I know how much injury compensation I will get?
If your injuries have already healed by the time you start a claim, or if they are relatively minor, your solicitor should be able to give you an approximate idea of how much compensation you'll get at the start of the claims process.
It will be harder to assess your compensation early on, if:
- Your injuries are not yet healed
- You suffered a progressive health condition (like hearing loss) that will worsen over time
- Ongoing treatment or care costs are not yet known
- You may have been partly responsible for the accident
- The accident made an existing injury worse
Quittance' compensation calculator will give you an idea of whether you have a claim, and what your claim could be worth.
When will I get my compensation?
How long the injury claims process takes will depend on a range of factors, including:
- The seriousness and extent of your injuries
- How the accident occurred (e.g. road accident, work accident, clinical negligence etc)
- Whether the defendant accepts liability
Your compensation will be awarded shortly after you accept the final settlement. In most cases, you should receive the compensation in your bank account within 2-3 weeks, although you may get the funds within days.
If the claim was settled following a court hearing, the payment process may take a week or so longer.
How did your injury happen?
Claiming compensation depends on the circumstances of your injury. Click the icons below for read more:
How we can help you with your injury claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.
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Questions about the injury claims process?
Get all the answers in our comprehensive FAQ section:
- How will a personal injury claim affect my benefits?
- Will I have to pay tax on my injury compensation award?
- Can I make a personal injury claim for someone else?
- Can I claim injury compensation if there were no witnesses?
- Can I make an injury claim if I don't know who's to blame?
Chris Salmon, Director
About the author
Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services. Chris has played key roles in the shaping and scaling of a number of legal services brands and is a regular commentator in the legal press.