Information for Clients on Claiming Compensation for Personal Injuries
Under English law you can generally only recover compensation for injuries and
associated financial losses if you can show that someone else was at fault
(‘negligent’ or ‘in breach of statutory duty’) and that this loss caused damage to you.
Virtually all personal injury compensation claims are settled out of Court. However,
the person against who you are claiming is still referred to as the Defendant(s) and
we will always need to consider what a Judge would decide if your case did go to
What you can claim for
You can claim compensation for the following ‘heads of damages’:
1. Damages for pain suffering and disability caused by the injuries themselves.
2. Compensation for expenses and other losses incurred as a result of the
injuries. These might include prescription charges, medical fees and travel
expenses for medical appointments or journeys which you would have made
more cheaply if the accident had not happened.
3. Compensation for loss of earnings.
4. The value of care provided for possessions, damaged, destroyed or lost as a
result of the accident.
5. The value of care provided to you by others if you were not able to look after
yourself following the accident.
6. Compensation for future losses and expenses where there are ongoing
It is not always possible for us to advise you at this stage on the likely amount of
compensation you would receive if you were successful in your claim. We will be
able to give you an assessment after we have received an independent medical
report on your injuries and after we have been able to calculate your financial
However, you should note that the Defendant is required to deduct from your
compensation any social security benefits which you would have received as a
result of the accident up until the date of the award on a ‘like for like’ basis. This
means that benefits designed to cover you for loss of income can be deducted
from any claim for loss of earnings, benefits for mobility problems can be
deducted from any claim for travelling expenses, and so on.
You may be entitled to help from your local council’s Social Services Department.
If you are not receiving this or if the services which you are receiving are
insufficient, you may wish to consider asking Social Services to assess (or re-
asses) your needs to determine what help you require. The council is under a
duty to carry out such assessments where there is an apparent need for services.
Please telephone us if you wish to discuss this further.
We should confirm, at the outset, that any court action seeking compensation for
personal injuries should normally be commenced before the third anniversary of the
date the injuries were suffered. Or in the case of a child, the day before the twenty-
first birthday (although in a claim arising out of injuries suffered, the court may, in
special and limited circumstances, extend this time limit).
Steps Which You Should Take
You will be sent forms of authority for the release of your medical records so that we
may obtain these for our medical expert to consider. Please complete the name and
address of the hospital or GP at which you received treatment and return the forms to
us so that we may send them to the doctors concerned.
It is very important that you keep a record of all expenses to which you are put as a
result of the injury (e.g. travel expenses, prescription charges) as we may be able to
get the money back for you from the Defendant. You should also obtain and keep
receipts wherever possible.
You must keep a record of all your attempts to find work (including copies of job
applications and details of retraining courses offered or undergone) as you are under
a duty to minimise your loss of earnings claim so far as is reasonable possible.
If your medical treatment is continuing, it would be helpful if you would make written
notes of this.
If the Defendant wants to talk to you about the case you should refuse to do so, at
least until you have discussed the matter with us.
It is very important that you keep us informed of any changes in address/telephone
numbers (home or work). When you write or telephone, please ensure that you
always quote the reference number that appears at the top of this letter as this will
help avoid any delay.
Steps Which We Will Take.
We will send a letter to the Defendant notifying them of your claim and asking them
to pass our letter to their insurers. In theory, the insurers then have 3 months in
which to respond to the claim by accepting or denying responsibility. If they deny,
that the Defendant is responsible, they must supply reasons and documentation in
support. Often insurers do not keep to this time table and we must press on with the
Once we have the signed letters of authority, we will apply for your medical records.
When we receive these, we will arrange for you to be examined by an independent
medical expert, who will report on your injuries. If the doctor is unable to predict the
future for your injuries (‘the prognosis’) you may need to be re-examined at a later
If appropriate, we will also be obtaining other evidence to support your claim (e.g. to
show that the Defendant was responsible for your accident or to support your
Once we have the medical evidence with a final prognosis and details of your other
losses, we will give the insurers an opportunity to settle your claim without Court
proceedings. Often, we have to start Court proceedings in order to put pressure on
the insurers to take your claim seriously, but it is very rare for such cases to go all the
way to trial.
How Long Will It Take?
It is very difficult to predict how long a personal injury claim will take. As you will
appreciate from the above, much depends on the medical situation and on the
attitude taken by the insurers. At present our ‘best guess’ is that your claim may take
between 12 and 24 months to reach a conclusion.
It is important that you appreciate that, if legal proceedings are needed, they must be
issued at court no later than 3 years after the date of the accident.
During the case it may be helpful to get some assistance from others outside the
firm. In particular:-
1) It is usually helpful to involve experts who can advise on, and help deal with,
certain aspects of the case; and
2) It may become appropriate to instruct Counsel (a Barrister) to advise or to
We will let you know if it seems appropriate to seek this further assistance and let
you have details of who is involved. Usually, any advice from these sources will be
given in writing, though a meeting may be arranged if appropriate.
It is important that you keep all documents which relate in any way to this matter.
For present purposes, the term ‘documents’ includes anything recorded, whether in
permanent or semi-permanent form, such as letters, contracts, receipts, diaries,
computer records, photographs, videos, and anything else of that kind.
Whilst we do not need to see all of those documents at this stage, such documents
may have to be produced in court proceedings, and a duty is owed to the court to
ensure the documents are preserved in case they should be required. Similarly, any
documents you subsequently obtain which relate to the matter should also be kept.
Also, if you have any other property connected with the matter in any way, you
should preserve that property until the case is concluded.
After completing the work, the firm is entitled to keep all papers and documents while
there is money owing for charges and expenses. The firm keeps papers (except for
any papers you ask to be returned to you) for no more than 6 years and keeps the
file on the understanding that the firm has authority to destroy it after 6 years from the
date of the final bill, although documents you ask to deposit in safe custody will not,
of course, be destroyed.
If it becomes necessary to retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to
continuing or new instructions to act on your behalf the firm would not normally
charge for such retrieval. However, the firm will make a charge, based on time spent
producing stored papers or documents to you or to another person at your request, in
other circumstances. The firm may also charge for reading correspondence or other
work necessary to comply with instructions given by you or on your behalf in this
You may terminate your instructions in writing at any time, but the firm will be entitled
to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing for charges and
In some circumstances, you may consider that we ought to stop acting for you, for
example, if you cannot give clear or proper instructions on how to proceed, or if it is
clear that you have lost confidence in how the work has been carried out.
We may only decide to stop acting for you with good reason, for example, if we do
not receive instructions from you or otherwise do not have the assistance we need to
progress the claim properly or if costs are not paid. We will, however, always give
reasonable notice before ceasing to act so that, if possible, any problems can be
dealt with and we can continue to act on your behalf.
You will see that the conditions applicable to a conditional fee agreement provide for
termination and its consequences.
We can end the agreement if we no longer believe that you have a reasonable
prospect of success or if you do not keep to your responsibilities.