Can You Make a Personal Injury Claim on Your Own?

Here’s a tricky scenario that an old colleague of mine has come up against recently. He was going through a free consultation with a client who’d had quite a serious injury. He got her into his office as she was local, went through the usual initial enquiry stuff. What happened? Where did it happen? What her injuries were and who she thought was to blame. So far so good. He started to explain to her about the no win, no fee deal he could offer as he felt that she had a valid claim and that the other parties insurer would pay his costs should she be awarded compensation.

Then she asked the question: “What is your hourly rate?”. He told her what the usual rate was in these cases and that it’s difficult to work out exactly what his actual fees would be because others in his office on lower rates may do some of the leg work and then she asked “Could I do this all on my own, can I work directly with the insurers and file my own claim directly with them?”

So he told her that yes in theory she could lodge her personal injury claim directly with the insurers of the other person but added that he wouldn’t recommend it. After all he’s been doing it for years, knows the in’s and out’s of a claim, knows how insurers work and also he was offering it all on a n win, no fee basis so there was no point in her risking getting a lower payment. She thanked him for his time and told him that she’d go away and think about her options but as far as I know he hasn’t heard back from her yet.

From my colleague’s description of events I’ll assume that his client has thought what others have said to me in the past – that they will get a higher compensation amount because there will be no legal fees for the insurer to pay because the client went direct. Well I’ll put that myth to bed now. Insurers pay for what you can prove to have been out of pocket for i.e. expenses, damage, injury and pain etc etc. The legal fees are paid out separately to cover the actual legal costs that the solicitor has incurred while preparing your personal injury claim and nothing else. If you don’t have legal costs, you won’t be paid for them on top of your compensation.

So the question still stands, can you claim directly without needing a personal injury solicitor. The simple answer is yes you can. You may think it’s strange that I said that but I’m in no way recommending it. Apart from the most simple cases I’d suggest that you would receive a lesser payment from an insurer than if your compensation claim was submitted by a solicitor.

Personal injury solicitors have usually worked in the sector for a number of years dealing with many different types of injury and also with a number of different insurers and their legal teams. They’ve got experience in how things works, which companies want to see evidence and in what format. You may think that you can just google things or ask on legal forums but in reality the advice you find on some of those sites is a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it is downright wrong. I was once shown a web page on a legal forum by a client and I had to explain to him that if he’d follow the advice on there then he’d end up with a criminal conviction! I would link to it but unfortunately I can’t for the life of me find it any more.

My advice to anyone asking the same question to me would be to remove the risk of doing it incorrectly and make use of a solicitor who specialises in personal injury claims. Make use of one who works on a no win, no fee basis and check that is exactly what you’re getting by reading the agreement they ask you to sign.

Ask them what experience they have with your type of injury as some specialise in certain types of injuries and claims. Also speak to them directly if you can rather than over email. You’ll know straight away if you find your solicitor approachable and that it is someone you can work with. Fortunately after looking for the not so good site I found a good site that explains all about no win no fee and personal injury claims in detail which is here – Claims Action.

I’ve dealt with so many companies and their legal teams over the years and know exactly what paperwork is needed to make a successful claim for the right amount of compensation. That is the key here, you may be able to get some compensation by claiming yourself but I’d be sure that an experienced personal injury solicitor would be able to get the correct amount of compensation for you.

Personal Injury Claims for the Self Employed

Not being able to go to work for a sustained period is difficult but it can be much more difficult if you’re self-employed. The first thing to understand as a self-employed worker is that you are not always to blame for personal injuries when at work. If you’re a contractor or working on a customers site then you don’t have as much control over your working environment as you do if you’re sat in front of a computer in your home office so there may still be a chance to make a personal injury claim.

As a self-employed person you don’t have the benefit of an employee who may get a period of sick pay or statutory sick pay when they’re off due to an accident. You may have dismissed an insurance policy against loss of earnings. I’ve heard people say “I don’t need insurance, I work for myself and don’t have any family to look after” but when crunch time comes they do regret it and they start considering if they can claim for the injury which has stopped them from working.

When you look at websites offering claims management for personal injury claims they all offer the same sorts of services and attempt to get back compensation for all sorts of things including loss of earnings. That is an easy thing to prove when you can provide wage slips showing that for the past year you’ve earned say £2000 per month then it’s easy to work out how much you’ve lost out on when you’ve been off work for 6 months.

But what if you are self employed and your income fluctuates from month to month or you can go weeks or months without any income and then have seasonal influx of work? I’ve seen insurance companies dismiss loss of earnings straight away in the case of self-employment. So how do you convince them that you have lost out during the period where you couldn’t work?

So, as with all personal injury claims, I always look for evidence. Evidence is more difficult as for self employed workers but providing your accounts are up to date and you’re organised properly then I would still expect to make a claim against loss of earnings. I would always look to have the following as evidence for your claim:

  • Your companies accounts for the past 3 years and also for the year the accident took place, even if they haven’t been filed yet (as long as they’re as up to date as possible).
  • Tax returns for the previous 3 years including the year the accident took place.
  • All invoices and receipts for the year leading up to the accident as a minimum.
  • Any emails that show promises of work, orders or confirmation of new jobs.
  • Copies of contracts that show work due to be completed during the period of the accident.
  • Any emails or letters showing contracts which were cancelled because you were unable to work.
  • Details of any customers or colleagues who can confirm that you would’ve been paid during the period following the accident and while you were unable to work.

The company who are dealing with your claim may offer to write to individuals on your behalf or they may ask you to. I always used to do it myself as it’s independent. I’d usually make contact with accountants, HMRC and also individuals who were involved in the business who could verify what you have lost out on.

As you can see you need more evidence than just a couple of pay slips and it does require that you’re accounts and tax returns are up to date but if everything is in order then you can make a successful claim for loss of earnings even though you are self-employed.

Even if you’re not the most organised person in the world and you haven’t filed tax returns or accounts then you may still be able to sort things out with regards compensation claims. I’ve dealt with clients in the past who weren’t up to date. They contacted HMRC, got their accounts up to date and paid a penalty for late filing but then I was able to contact the company that he was sub-contracting for and got them to admit liability for the accident. Then, because the self-employed worker had sorted his accounts I was able to make a successful claim for loss of earnings.

So in short, don’t be put off from making a claim for lost earnings if you’re self-employed. It is harder to achieve a successful outcome but I know from experience that, with evidence provided, you can get a claim through and get compensation to cover your lost earnings when you need them most.

Personal Injury Claims involving Drink Drivers

Personal Injury Claims involving Drink Drivers

In my time as a personal injury specialist I came across a few cases of pedestrians who’d been injured (some injuries were life threatening) by drivers who had consumed more than the legal amount of alcohol and were convicted of drink driving offences. On a couple of occasions the claimant’s were under the impression that the driver would have invalidated their insurance by drink driving and therefore there’d be no insurance policy to make a claim against.

Drivers in the UK are legally allowed to drink a small amount of alcohol and still drive a vehicle but the problem is that the small amount can have a massive difference on each individual driver. One driver may remain unaffected and another may not be in control of the vehicle at all.

The first thing to remember when you have an accident and you suspect a driver is drunk is to call the police and wait for them to arrive. If they’re able to breath test the driver and it’s over the limit then this will make a claim much easier as it will prove negligence very easily. The main difference between drink driving and any other personal injury claim is that in most cases the police will prosecute the other driver in the criminal courts.

The thing I tend to tell people is that the insurer of the other car will still be obliged under the Road Traffic Act to cover the liabilities of the driver and that will include any personal injury claim. What the insurer may do however is recoup those costs from the drunk driver as they will more than likely have breached their insurance policy by drinking and driving in the first place, but that’s not your concern.

If a driver makes away from the scene or their insurance refuses to pay out then there’s still an option open to victims of drink driving or more importantly claims against uninsured drivers.
That is to make a claim from the Motor Insurance Bureau.

The Motor Insurance Bureau is a group set up to deal with uninsured and untraced drivers. In the case of a driver who’s policy is deemed invalid because they have been convicted of drinking and driving they effectively become uninsured and therefore a claim may be possible via the MIB. Each year, every person who takes out motor insurance will be paying a contribution to the MIB (around £30 per policy I understand – which means we all end up paying more for our insurance because of uninsured drivers).

As with a claim against a valid insurance policy a claim can be made against the MIB for things like:

  • the cost of repair of your vehicle or replacement if your car is written off completely.
  • Charges for hiring a vehicle while yours is replaced.
  • Loss of use.
  • Personal injury claims for treatment, rehabilitation, pain & suffering as well as your legal costs for bringing the claim.

If your car policy is fully comprehensive then you won’t be able to claim for your car repair or replacement but the main thing is that you can proceed with a personal injury claim.

Some people have said to me that it doesn’t seem morally right to claim from the MIB as the ordinary, law-abiding drivers have to bare the costs but I tell them to remember that they are included in that. If you’ve paid your insurance then why not claim against the MIB. That’s what it’s there for and I believe they will still try to locate the drink driver and recover the money paid out to you directly from them. So not being insured or having their insurance invalidate for drink driving could end up hitting them in the pocket as well as the punishment they receive from the criminal court.

The other type of claimant I see for drink driving cases is passengers in a vehicle where their driver had been drink driving and subsequently convicted for the offence. These passengers can make a claim against the drivers insurance policy or again against the Motor Insurers Bureau but they are likely to be paid a lot less due to contributory negligence. If you knew the driver had drunk enough alcohol to reduce their driving ability or if you could’ve worked it out by their actions before driving then compensation will most likely be reduced for you and any other passengers in the car.

In general, I would say that if you’ve been a pedestrian or the driver (or passenger) in a vehicle and you’ve been hit by someone who has been charged or convicted with drink driving then you should make a personal injury claim if you’ve suffered even if their insurance policy has been invalidated.

When making a Personal Injury Claim what are Special Damages?

When making a Personal Injury Claim what are Special Damages?

Today I thought I’d write a little bit about special damages in relation to personal injury claims.

If you’ve spoken to a solicitor or claims management company then you’ll have probably heard the phrase ‘Special Damages‘ being mentioned. When you make any type of personal injury claim there are two elements to the claim which are general damages and special damages.

General damages is the term used for compensation that is paid out for suffering, pain and loss of amenity arising out of the injuries sustained in an accident. This can be psychological or physical and is usually calculated by using medical reports to ascertain how much pain or suffering was caused by the accident at the time and until the injury is completely healed, or if it’s not going to heal how much pain it will cause in the future.

Special damages is what we say when we refer to any financial loss caused as a direct result of the accident. Things that claimant’s usually claim under special damages are:

Loss of earnings

This is usually the largest element of special damages in a personal injury claim. If the claimant is unable to work then their employer may only pay them the government’s statutory sick pay which can leave a large difference between what they’d normally earn and the amount they receive while off on sick leave because of the accident. If they can prove that they’d normally receive overtime during the period of sick leave then that may be claimed for as well. Loss of earnings can be claimed for self-employed claimant’s too but will require more evidence than an employee would need to provide.

Travel Costs

It is possible to include travel costs in special damages. Some people, following an accident, have to travel to numerous doctors, hospital, or physiotherapy sessions and incur travel costs and parking costs. This can also include public transport costs. For this to be claimed you should keep a diary of appointments and where possible receipts for parking costs and public transport receipts.

Care or assistance costs

If while a you were injured you were unable to complete household duties and you had a friend or family member help out then this can be claimed for under special damages. Even if that person did it out of the goodness of their heart and didn’t expect payment then you can claim. Also if you had to pay for a company to do any of the work because you were unable to then this may be claimable as well.

Medical costs

A long period of recovery may require a lot of medication. Each prescription costs money and can soon add up to a fair amount of money. This can be added on to your special damages element of your compensation claim.

Damage to personal items

When you have an accident you usually sustain damage to your belongings. Clothes can get ripped or stained, glasses (spectacles) can become scratched or broken and also things like phones or MP3 players can get damaged or broken if you land on them. These items all need to be replaced or repaired and so can be claimed for.

If your personal injury claim involves damage to your motor vehicle you may think that you’ll be able to add that to special damages as well but usually you’d have to claim on your own motor insurance. However if you have to pay an excess on your claim then you can put that into special damages as you’ve had to pay it as a direct result of the accident.

I won’t list everything that it’s possible to claim for under special damages as it can be quite a long list if you wrote it all down but the main thing is that if you’ve incurred a financial cost due directly to the accident then you should let your solicitor or lawyer know so they can consider it for your claim.

Don’t try to claim for anything extra as that would be deemed as a fraudulent claim and if you do want to claim for anything you should keep receipts and photograph anything that your replacing as damaged or faulty due to the accident.

Another thing to note about these financial losses is that if the claim is settled before the injury is fully recovered then the claim for special damages can include the future i.e. future loss of earnings, future cost of care, future medication cost etc etc. This is so an insurer can clear everything in one go and you don’t make future claims down the road. This is usually better for both parties and can mean complete settlement is achieved earlier rather than waiting for a long-term injury from being completely healed which may take many months or years.

Should you accept the first settlement offer for an injury claim?

Should you accept the first settlement offer for an injury claim?

In my experience the worst mistake people make is to agree to an injury claim settlement too hastily. The insurance company of the person responsible for the injury you sustained will more than likely rush to contact you with an offer of a settlement. These offers may come in less than a fortnight of the accident occurring.

At first it will seem that the insurance company is concerned about your welfare and are trying to compensate you as quickly as possible for your losses. It will seem like the company is being considerate and that they are “owning up” to their responsibility towards you because the person they insured is at fault for the accident.

Most times the insurance company is actually using the quick settlement as a means of having to pay the least amount of money possible to you. When an insurance company sees that their client was at fault for an accident then they try to make the settlement amount they have to pay as low as possible. To make the settlement less they offer the money before the injured party has time to really understand how much they have lost during the accident.

What you should know before you agree to a settlement.

Before you can agree to a monetary compensation amount for your personal injury, you have to know the full extent of your injuries.

  • You have to see a medical professional like your doctor and find out what physical repercussions you are likely to have in the future.
  • You have to give yourself time to heal and see how much pain and suffering you have to endure before you are finished healing.
  • You need to see how much time you are off of work to determine how the accident has affected you financially
  • You need to see if you are going to need to buy any medical equipment in the future such as crutches, canes, or wheel chairs.
  • You will need to consider how any family members could be affected, if you are the main “bread winner” for example.

What you want from a personal injury settlement

  • You want compensation for any time you have missed from work. If your injury is going to cause you to have to change jobs, or have difficulties performing your normal job, then you want compensation for the amount of earnings you would have made at the original job.
  • You want to have any training you might require to get in order to qualify for a new job to be paid for.
  • You want any immediate medical bills covered. You want any treatment costs to be paid for plus any medications, any medical equipment you have to have, transportation to and from hospitals and so forth.
  • You want any future medical costs that are directly caused by the injury suffered during the accident to be paid for, in full. If you hurt your back you want that injury to be medically covered for as long as you have the injury. This coverage needs to include reimbursement for medical supplies, medications, and travel to and from medical facilities.
  • You want to be reimbursed for the pain and suffering you might endure while healing and for future pain and suffering you might have to endure.
  • You want to be compensated if the quality of your life is diminished due to the injuries you sustained. You want to have the best life you possibly can after the accident and to do this you will have to consider every aspect of your life that the injury has changed.

How to make sure that you are properly compensated.

In order to make certain that you receive the compensation that you deserve after an accident you should not consider any settlement offers without getting the advice from a solicitor. This is my personal advice to you, and according to the Law Society of England it is the best advice. According to the Law Society of England individuals who hire the services of a solicitor when they have been involved in an accident receive monetary settlements that are up to three times greater than the settlements accepted by people who use no solicitor.

A personal injury solicitor will have your best interests at heart, because it is in their best interests to do so. They will use all of the knowledge and expertise they have to make sure that the insurance company compensates you fairly for the injuries that you suffered.

A solicitor will know what things that the court says the other party can be held liable for, and they will know what documentation you will need to prove your injury claim. They will not let the solicitor for the insurance company “bully” you or convince you to take a monetary amount that is less than what you deserve.

So before accepting any first settlement offer for a personal injury, speak to a personal injury lawyer.

What is No Win No Fee?

What is No Win No Fee?

Something that always made me giggle as a lawyer was being asked by potential clients if their personal injury claim would be no win no fee. I would say that as a guesstimate 8 out of 10 people would then ask me to explain the meaning no win no fee. So I thought today I would spend just a little time looking at what no win no fee is and how it works.

To begin…

The term no win no fee applies to lawyers or solicitors who agree to take on a clients personal injury claim and should they not win their client’s case then the client does not have to pay the lawyer fees. An important factor to take note of is that there are in fact several variations of the no win no fee arrangement, so you would have to ask each lawyer you are talking with what no win no fee terms they specifically apply to their clients.

Do all lawyers work solely on a no win no fee basis?

You have to remember there are different types of lawyer that may specialise only in certain areas of law, and on that basis then the answer is no, not all lawyers offer no win no fee representation. However, most personal injury lawyers do offer no win no fee representation. Criminal law, corporate law, and other types of law practices are more likely not to offer no win, no fee representation.

What risk is involved with no win no fee claims?

risk

Most people that hire a personal injury lawyer usually do so because they assume there are no risks for them in a no win no fee arrangement. The lawyer takes the risk of not getting paid anything if they do not win the case and therefore do not win monetary compensation for their client, but you should always double check the fine print before signing a no win, no fee agreement. Check for any hidden costs or charges, and make sure you know who’s liable for other costs that may be involved whether the case may be won or lost.

In a true no win no fee agreement the lawyer pays for any filing fees, and paperwork fees associated with the case. They pay their office staff, and they invest their time, and efforts, into trying to make the case successful for you. If they are unsuccessful in winning the case then they do not get paid and they will lose all of those working hours and expenses at no cost to their client.

How can lawyers afford to offer no win, no fee cases?

You might think that lawyers that offer to take cases on on a no win no fee basis would lose money, but the truth is those lawyers make money otherwise they would be out of business. Before a personal injury lawyer offers a no win no fee arrangement they will listen carefully to the details that the client has to share. They will evaluate the circumstances of the case, and they will weigh all of the odds up of winning or losing.

When the lawyer offers to take the injury claim on on a no win no fee basis they have to be quite certain that they will win the claim otherwise it could cost them dearly.

A lawyer must be confident in their ability to win a case before accepting it which means they have to learn to judge people, they have to know the laws pertaining to the type of case they are taking on, and they have to know how to present the evidence in court so that it is more likely to win them the case.

Is a no win, no fee claim completely free of charges?

As alluded to above, this depends on the personal injury lawyer. Some lawyers will charge their client for the cost of obtaining things like medical records, and applicable court fees. Some lawyers do not charge anything over their agreed success fee.

Almost all lawyers will provide a free consultation with a potential client and listen to the details of their case. During this free consultation the lawyer should determine if they can take on the case and the probability they have of winning the case. They will explain to the client their opinions on whether the case is going to be hard to win, or relatively easy to win.

The lawyer will explain the way they charge for their services, and they will explain any fees that you might have to pay out of your pocket. Just because you go to a free consultation with a lawyer however does not mean you are obligated to hire that lawyer.

If you do not like their level of confidence, or their fee charges, then you can politely thank them for their time and move on to find another no win no fee lawyer.