It’s easy to be taken in by the adverts. They all promise the Earth but it’s hard to tell the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer. In fact, most adverts you see on TV, or hear on the radio, are not even for law firms, but claims companies that make money by selling your details to a law firm.
In this article, we’re going to explain how to make a personal injury claim and deal with all of the jargon that you usually hear, plus explain how the process works, so you know what to expect from your lawyer.
The Claims Process
Nowadays, many claims are completed by using an online portal that lawyers and insurers have access to. It is used for all claims for road traffic accidents, accidents at work and trips or slips in public places, where the injury claim value is less than £25,000.
A simplified overview of the claims process using the online portal is as follows:
Stage One - Claim Submission
All no win no fee personal injury claims for road traffic accidents, accidents at work and trip or slips in public places that are under £25,000 in value are submitted to our opponent using an online portal. The other side then has up to 40 days to respond and confirm whether or not liability has been accepted.
Stage Two - Acceptance & Negotiation
Once liability has been conceded by the other side, we then have to provide medical evidence to support your claim. We may send you to see a medical expert who can prepare a report to assist your claim. Once everything is sent over to the other side, offers to settle should be made and negotiations between the parties will take place to try and achieve a positive settlement for you.
Stage Three - Final Hearing
If we are unable to agree an appropriate settlement for your claim at Stage Two, then we take the matter to court for a final resolution. This is done without the need to actually go to court as the hearing is either heard orally or a judge decides based on the bundle of evidence that we submit.
Although the claim is started using the online portal, it can come out of that process for a number of reasons. If liability (responsibility for the accident) is denied, then the claim will need further investigation and negotiation than the portal allows for. If that happens, the two sides will negotiated until either an agreement is reached or proceedings are issued to settle the claim at court.
If proceedings are issued to take your case to court, this does not mean that you will actually have to go to court. In most cases where proceedings are issued, the two sides negotiate a settlement before it goes to trial.
The above process relates to claims for road traffic accidents, accidents at work and trips or slips in public places, that are under £25,000 in value. But what about claims over that value, or other types of claims?
For all other claims, claims are dealt with initially by way of negotiation with the other side. It starts with a letter of claim, which notifies the other party of the claim against them and why it is being made.
Whenever somebody makes a personal injury claim, they are meant to follow something called a pre-action protocol. This is essentially a set of technical guidelines of how to make a personal injury claim and more specifically the actions that each side should take before taking a case to court. You can read more about pre-action protocols here.
Once the pre-action protocol has been followed, if the claim is still disputed, then proceedings are issued by the Claimant’s lawyer to take the case to court.
Again, just because proceedings are issued, it doesn’t mean that the case will actually end up in court. Very few cases that have court proceedings started are settled by trial. Most are settled before.
Once you start your personal injury claim, most of this work will be going on in the background and you won’t need to have direct involvement. The whole point of having a lawyer is for them to act on your behalf, so that you don’t have to pursue the matter yourself. But by understanding the process that is followed, you can understand why it is important to have the right lawyer acting for you.
Now that we have covered the actual claims process, let’s have a look at some of the terms used…
What Does ‘No Win No Fee’ Mean?
The proper name for a no win no fee agreement is actually ‘Conditional Fee Agreement’. This basically just means that the fee being charged by the lawyer is conditional upon an agreed outcome. So in the context of personal injury claims, a conditional fee agreement, or no win no fee agreement, means that you will only be charged by your lawyer if your claim is successful. But wait! Doesn’t that mean you’re going to have to pay for something?
In the event of a successful claim, most of the legal costs are covered by the losing party and law firms negotiate this directly with the other side, so you do not get involved. But you may be charged up to 25% of the damages that you receive.
So technically yes, if you win your case, there are legal fees to pay. But look at it this way, you wouldn’t expect your lawyer to work for free would you? And don’t forget, the majority of the fees are recovered from the other side, not from you. And if for any reason your claim wasn’t successful, and you held up your end of the agreement, you don’t pay a penny anyway.
Can I Be Charged If I Lose My Case?
This may well be an uncomfortable question for many lawyers. You see, technically the answer is yes, but it depends. Just like with any agreement, each person entering into it has their own responsibilities under it. This means that when you make a no win no win personal injury claim, you are entering into a legal agreement with your lawyer and have responsibilities under this agreement too. So what are they?
Essentially, it comes down to one thing. Co-operation. If your lawyer needs something from you in order to progress your claim, you should provide it as soon as you can. Remember that your lawyer only gets paid by the opposition if your claim is successful. If it fails because you didn’t do something that was essential, such as signing documents or attending a medical examination, then it wouldn’t really be fair for your lawyer to be out-of-pocket, would it?
Now this may sound quite harsh, but don’t worry as this is something that rarely happens. And anyway, it’s your claim! So why wouldn’t you co-operate with your own lawyer anyway?
Do I Have To Do Anything?
In short, yes, but very little. In order to prove that you suffered injury and that those injuries were caused by the accident, law firms usually obtain independent medical evidence to support your claim. This means going along for a medical examination with a doctor, who then prepares a report that can be sent to the other side, or used in court if necessary. The medical expert will make a prognosis wherever possible. In other words, he will estimate how long your injuries are likely to last. It is from this report that lawyers work out the injury claim value.
In some cases, you might be sent to see more than one medical expert, if your injuries require it. For example, if you suffer psychological trauma as a result of the accident then it may be necessary for you to see a psychologist as well as the expert who reports on your physical symptoms.
From time to time we might need to discuss your claim with you, or obtain further information or documentation to support your claim. At LawClaim we try to get as much paperwork out of the way at the start of your claim, so we don’t need to keep asking you for extra things later on.
What is a Claimant?
A Claimant is simply the legal term for the person bringing the claim against another party. If you start a personal injury claim against someone, then you will be known as the Claimant.
What is a Defendant?
Just as a Claimant is the party bringing the claim, the Defendant is party who is defending the claim. So if you’re in a car accident and claim against another driver, then the other driver will be known in legal terms as the Defendant.
Hopefully you’ll now have a better understanding of how to make a personal injury claim. If you want to learn more about how to make a personal injury claim, contact us for more information.
One last thing you need to know. All personal injury claims must be initiated at court within 3 years, save for exceptional circumstances. So are if you are thinking of making a personal injury claim, it is important that you start it as soon as possible.