Accident Claims FAQs

When can I make a claim?
If you have been injured or have caught an illness or disease and someone else is responsible, you may be able to claim compensation. This can include injury, illness or disease caused by a road accident, accident at work or medical accidents. If a member of your family has died due to an accident you may also be able to claim for compensation. This is known as a "Fatal Accidents" claim.
 
Who do I claim against?
If you have an accident at work then your claim will probably be against your employer. If you have a road accident you can claim against the other driver, they will usually be insured and their insurance company will end up paying. If you trip on a pavement it may be the local council that you sue. If the accident occurred on private property you may have to sue the owner of the property. If you slip on flooring at for example, a supermarket then you may have to sue the supermarket or the person who owns the property where you were injured. You may have to sue the manufacturers if you have caught an illness because of a chemical or product. Or you may be able to sue the company that sold or gave you the chemical or product. If it is a medical accident you may have to sue the hospital involved or your GP, or even your dentist. They will all usually have insurance to cover claims made by patients. Your solicitor will be able to tell you more about the correct person or organisation to sue if you have a claim.
 
How do I make a claim?
Before making a claim you or your solicitor must first follow certain steps known as the "pre-action protocol". This requires you to write a letter to your opponent setting out that you intend to make a claim, how you say the accident happened, what your injuries are and what your losses are.
 
If your opponent responds to your letter within 14 days you must give them 3 months to investigate your claim and then they must write a letter back to say whether or not they admit your claim.
 
You must also try and agree with them the selection of a suitable medical expert. Wherever possible you should try to negotiate a settlement without going to court.
 
Once you have followed these steps and you have not managed to settle the claim and you still need to go to court you will need a court "Claim Form" on which you will have to give details of your case. You will also need to get a medical report to show that you were injured or to say what your illness or disease is.
 
You will also have to pay a court fee.
 
You may also have to prepare a list of the expenses you have had to pay or money you have lost because of the accident, injury or disease and put these into a schedule known as a "Schedule of Special Damages" which you will need to send to your opponent and the court.
 
What do I need to do before I see a solicitor?
It always helps to take photographs of where the accident occurred or draw a sketch plan. It also helps to get the name and address of the person, company or local authority who you will be suing. You should also keep details of the date of the accident and what happened so that you do not forget all the details by the time you see your solicitor.
 
If it is a medical accident you should keep details of your hospital reference number, the doctor who treated you and the date of your operation or treatment. You can also apply for your medical records and notes by writing to the hospital. There is a small administrative charge of £10.00 for this, plus reasonable photocopying charges.
 
Can I claim for anything else other than my injury or illness?
Yes. Normally you can claim for anything you have lost because of the accident or illness. For example, damaged clothing, damaged property, medical expenses, lost wages, travel expenses, or special equipment that you need, because of your injury. You may also be able to claim for money someone else has lost because they have had to look after you due to your injury/illness. To help your solicitor you should try and keep receipts for your losses and also write down in a diary what you have had to pay for and how much it has cost, for example if you have had to pay for medicines or trips to the doctor or hospital.
 
Can I get Legal Aid for an Accident Claim?
Full Legal Aid is no longer available for accident claims. However, if you are eligible, your solicitor may be able to advise you under the Legal Help scheme. This only covers advice and assistance and does not cover preparing court papers or representation at court.
 
Is there a time limit for making a claim?
Yes. You must make a claim to the court within 3 years of the accident or illness. If the accident/illness occurred before you were 18 years old then the 3 years does not start to run until you are 18. If you did not know at the time that you were injured or ill then the 3 years might start from the date you first realised that you were injured or ill. Some accident claims have special time limits, such as accidents involving aeroplanes, where the time limit is 2 years.
 
Can I make any other claims apart from a court claim?
If you were injured because your opponent did something which is a criminal offence then you can apply to the government for compensation. You make your application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). You have to make your application within 2 years of the accident, the forms are available from the CICA or a solicitor who deals with this kind of work.
 
What if I was partly to blame for the accident?
If you were partly to blame for the accident which caused your injury or illness, you can still claim compensation if someone else was also to blame. However, your compensation may be reduced because you were also at fault. This is called "Contributory Negligence".
 
What are General Damages?
This is compensation for post-trial losses which are likely to continue into the future and where it is difficult to put a final figure on the losses. Some examples of general damages are compensation for pain & suffering, loss of promotion or other opportunities, disadvantage in the labour market, pain and suffering, inability to carry out day to day tasks / hobbies, future loss of earnings etc.
 
What are Special Damages?
This is compensation for money you have had to pay out pre-trial and have lost because of the accident / injury / illness, and which you can put a figure on. Examples are money spent on travel, prescription fees, buying special equipment, damage to property, insurance excess etc. Special Damages must be proved by the party claiming, they are not assumed by a court. Losses that are particular to your case, for example, damage to you car in an accident or an injury that prevents you from playing your favourite sport. A court will have to decide an amount of compensation for these sorts of losses.
 
Am I entitled to any interest on the compensation I receive?
Yes, but only if your compensation is for more than £200. On Special Damages you are entitled to interest at half the "special investment account rate". This is a special interest rate applied to court funds. This changes from time to time, it is currently 0.5%. So you would be entitled to half this rate. On General Damages you are entitled to 2% per year, but only for those losses relating to your "pain and suffering" and inability to carry out day-to-day tasks or hobbies. However, the court may in special circumstances be able to award more than 2%.
 
What are "disbursements"?
This is money which your solicitor has to pay to third parties to help prepare your case. For example, court fees, fees for medical or other expert reports.
 
Disbursements can frequently become a major cost in any case, particularly when a case requires reports from experts to establish evidence, personal injury cases are a good example. Where a claimant has a serious injury, which is likely to have long-term consequences a report will be needed to assess the injuries now - and importantly in the future. This will allow a more accurate assessment of the actual loss suffered by the client, and a better understanding of the damages that can be claimed.
 
Your solicitor will always notify you and your insurance company (if applicable) before they incur significant disbursement costs.
 
Other typical (but smaller costs) include court fees and serving documents etc. However, there is a grey area - costs such as photocopying and postage are usually deemed to be just the overhead of running a law firm and are therefore not treated as disbursements. However, if a solicitor had to photocopy a large number documents for your case, for example more than 1,000 pages - this would probably be treated as a disbursement and so would be added directly to your legal costs and bill.
 
For smaller costs your solicitor will not inform you of them, simply because they are routine costs and not significant.
 
There are also quite complex rules relating to VAT being paid on disbursements, this means that in some cases your solicitor will have to charge you VAT on disbursements and in other case they will not. Please see the external link below for guidance published by HMRC.

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