Personal injury claims usually arise from either a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) or a work-related accident (employers’ liability claims).
In the case of a RTA, a claimant may establish liability (usually the allegedly negligent driver) if he can show that their standard of driving fell below that of the ordinary skilful driver, and the accident caused him injuries.
With employers’ liability claims, a claimant may establish liability if he can show his employer failed to take reasonable care to provide competent staff, adequate equipment, safe systems of work or safe premises. In both cases, the claimant should contact a personal injury solicitor for advice on making a claim.
Legal stages in a RTA claim
A police accident report (PAR) should be obtained from the police, if it exists. The PAR will contain statements from the parties, witness statements, a sketch plan, and comments on the condition of the vehicles, the road surface and weather conditions. Once information has been gathered about the accident, it is important to then follow the steps required by the pre-action protocol for personal injury claims.
These are as follows:
- inform the potential opponent of the existence of any funding arrangement between the claimant and their solicitor;
- a letter of claim must be sent to the proposed defendant (usually an individual), giving a summary of the facts and an indication of the nature of the injuries that have been sustained, and also stressing the importance of passing on the letter of claim to the relevant insurer;
- the defendant should be asked to respond to the letter of claim within 21 days, failing which the claimant may then commence proceedings. If the defendant or his insurers do respond within 21 days, they then have a maximum of three months to investigate the claim. Within that time, the defendant must confirm whether or not they admit liability;
- material or relevant documents should be disclosed by both parties;
- the claimant should instruct a mutually agreeable expert;
- both parties should consider whether some form of alternative dispute resolution would be more suitable than litigation, or whether the claim is capable of settlement before proceeding to a full trial.
Following a waiting period of no less than three months and if the parties have not reached settlement, the claimant is free to issue court proceedings.
New RTA processes
If the defendant has admitted liability, the claim for general damages exceeds £1000 but not £10,000 and the RTA occurred on or after 30 April 2010, there are new RTA protocols that will apply to the claim. This streamlined three-stage process requires information to be exchanged electronically on new prescribed forms, with the aim of providing quicker compensation for claimants.
Legal stages in a work-related accident
Following an accident at work, it is important to consider taking the following steps:
- report the accident to your employer;
- obtain relevant documents;
- visit the site and take photographs;
- take witness statements;
- obtain medical records for the claimant;
- instruct a medical expert, who should prepare a medical report on condition and prognosis;
- if necessary, instruct a further expert, such as a health and safety expert or engineer; and
- request a copy of a health and safety executive report, if there is one available.
Once the above steps have been taken, you should then follow the pre-action protocol for personal injury claims, as outlined above, and in due course either negotiate a settlement or commence court proceedings.