Personal injury claims – why do they take so long?
One of the most common complaints made in relation to personal injury claims is that even
the most straight-forward of cases can often take quite a while before mutually agreeable
settlement terms can be reached. Why do you think there are such delays?
The Civil Procedure Rules stipulate that a Claimant's legal advisors should undertake the
necessary investigations to obtain all evidence required in order to support the Claimant's
case. The evidence might comprise a police report or police statements, witness evidence or
photographs. If the Claimant is incapacitated then a visit from the lawyer to the Claimant's
home may be necessary. After all the relevant evidence has been obtained, a formal letter of
claim is then released, in duplicate, and this has the effect of formally kick-starting our
When the letter of claim has been received by the proposed Defendant, he or she retains one
copy and the duplicate must be forwarded to the relevant insurer within 21 days of receipt.
The insurer then has 3 months within which to investigate and to communicate a definite
decision on liability, i.e. whether it has agreed to pay or to resist the claim. Absent any such
decision within the initial four months, a Claimant has the right under the Rules to commence
county court proceedings and to ask the Court to become involved.
Medical evidence must be obtained to support an injury claim and this is often commissioned
after the insurer has made its decision on liability. Moreover, it is not always sensible to
commission a report too early as there are likely to be continuing symptoms which may
necessitate a further report and even more delays! Furthermore, any medical expert
instructed to examine and to report upon the injuries sustained by a Claimant as a
consequence of an accident is required to review the medical records and to comment on any
relevant entries in those records. Obtaining the records (or in the case of a supplementary
report, updated records) can be time consuming. Medical record holders are entitled to take
no more than 6 weeks under the relevant legislation to provide copies of the records and very
often they take full advantage of this facility, especially hospitals where so many requests are
Once the report has been obtained no personal injury lawyer acting for a Claimant will advise
a client to settle his or her claim until the medical evidence provides a final, definitive
prognosis. Unless the injuries are so serious that payments are to be made over a period of
time, settlement is often agreed on a "once and for all" basis: when compensation has been
agreed and the insurer has made its payment, there will be no further opportunity to revert
back to the insurer for additional compensation. It follows that it would be negligent to
advise a client to settle a claim until the full extent of the injury has been ascertained.
The Claimant ultimately has the final say, however, and if he or she chooses not to take the
advice of the lawyer, and elects to settle prematurely, written instructions will usually be
obtained from the Claimant confirming that the decision has been made, against the advice of
As stated, lawyers acting for Claimants will never (willingly) advise a client to settle his or
her claim until the medical expert has provided a final prognosis. Lawyers acting for insurers,
however, are often encouraged to achieve early settlements, in order to minimise legal costs
incurred in pursuing a personal injury claim to a minimum. Ultimately, like you, the
Claimant, we all want to settle claims at the earliest opportunity but very often there are
reasons why they can't be settled, and these are often unavoidable.
Delays can be frustrating for a Claimant so if you have a personal injury claim and you are
frustrated with eth e time taken to settle your claim ask your solicitor what is holding the
claim up. There is often a genuine reason for a delay and if you are informed of the reason
for a delay it usually makes it that little bit more bearable!
At Rowberry Morris we have a team of 4 Personal Injury lawyers with more than 60 years
experience between us handling a variety of personal injury claims. Please do not hesitate to
telephone us on either 0118 958 5611 or 0500 505 515 for an informal discussion or to arrange a
preliminary appointment. Generally a Claimant has only three years within which to settle a
personal injury claim without recourse to the court so the earlier you start, the greater the chance
you have of succeeding with your claim.
Please note that this information is for guidance and should not be regarded as a substitute for
taking full legal advice.