Can you claim? Should you claim? What will be taken into consideration if you do? Here follows a brief guide on the first things to consider.
A matter of timing
Strict time limits apply to personal injury claims, so it’s advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Some solicitors specialise in this type of case, so it is advisable to consult an expert with experience in this specific area of the law.
For most personal injury cases the claim is for negligence, and the time limit for this is 3 years. You must, therefore, issue court proceedings within 3 years of having sustained the injury. Bear in mind that it may take many months for a lawyer to put together the necessary documentation for this process.
Footing the bill
Another thing to consider at the outset is paying the legal costs. There are three main options. You can pay the bill yourself, or if your home insurance policy includes legal expenses cover, you may be able to claim the cost through that.
Otherwise, many legal firms offer conditional fee agreements, which are commonly known as no win, no fee arrangements. These means that the solicitor will not earn their fee if you lose the case. This scenario could also make you liable for the costs of the other side, so check carefully before signing up. A good solicitor can advise on all the options, including taking out insurance to cover you against the eventuality of losing the case.
Accreditation & Associations
It is best to engage a solicitor who is a member of the personal injury accreditation scheme overseen by the Law Society. There are also two associations whose members specialise in personal injury law.
The Motor Accidents Solicitors Society (MASS) consists of lawyers who deal with motor accident personal injury claims, and members will offer prospective clients a free initial consultation.
Members of The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) practice personal injury law relating to both motor and non-motor related claims. APIL is a non-profit organisation, and all members abide by a code of conduct as well as a consumer charter. Many also belong to the organisation’s accreditation scheme, which requires lawyers to have at least 5 years’ experience in a particular area of personal injury law.
Other than consulting a legal expert, there are several other options open to those with certain types of personal injury. If you have suffered a violent crime against you, the government has its own guidelines on claiming compensation.
Trade union members may obtain advice from their union if the injury was caused by anything related to your work, so it can be wise to check with them. In some cases, the union may instruct a lawyer on your behalf, fully funded by the union.
If the injury was caused by a motoring accident, motoring organisations such as the RAC or AA may provide legal advice to members.