The Process for Accident Claims
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we will get you or your loved one proper compensation for the serious injuries and financial losses suffered as a result of another’s wrong doing. We will do all we can to help you or your loved one make the best and quickest possible recovery, not just from a medical point of view but from a social and psychological perspective too. Quality of life, physical and mental wellbeing is our concerns as well as yours.
The first thing we will do is meet with you at home or in hospital to listen to your story – what happened and what has been the resulting impact of the injuries suffered on you, your family, your lifestyle and your finances. Based on what you have told us, we will then provide advice on whether the claim is likely to succeed, what evidence will be needed to progress the case, what to expect in terms of the process and the funding options available.
We understand that it can be difficult and time consuming for you and your family to try to find out what assistance is available to you because of the serious nature of the injuries suffered. Therefore, once funding has been settled, we will arrange for you to receive advice about any welfare benefits you may be entitled to, and will refer you or your loved one to an independent case manager who will report on the immediate needs in terms of rehabilitation, care and equipment. As a result, we will help arrange whatever is needed to reduce the impact of the injuries in the immediate, medium and longer term. The case manager will provide you with the support you need for example arranging medical appointments and treatment, obtaining aides and equipment, finding suitable accommodation and engaging carers. If you agree to include the fees as part of the claim for financial losses there will be nothing to pay unless and until the compensation is received.
The next step is the preparation of a letter to send to the defendant (the person or organisation we consider is to blame for what happened) setting out what happened, why we think they are to blame and the impact this has had. We will also request any documentation required to progress the claim.
Once that letter has been acknowledged, the defendant is obliged to respond within 3 months. They must confirm whether they accept the claim. If they do not, they must say why and provide any evidence in support of their denial of liability. They must also provide copies of all the documents requested in our letter.
The outcome of the previous stage will clearly inform the next steps.
Scenario A – Liability admitted
If liability is admitted (i.e. the defendant accepts responsibility for what happened), we will seek an interim payment from the defendant to fund rehabilitation, care, equipment or whatever is needed and to reimburse any financial losses incurred to date. We will seek regular payments from the defendant throughout the claim.
From there, we must obtain evidence to support the claim. This will include obtaining any relevant documents to help us assess the claim and support it, including medical reports from highly respected medical experts. This will probably involve obtaining expert evidence from a variety of medical experts and will likely involve the experts producing multiple reports at different stages in the rehabilitation process. This stage in the process may therefore take some time because the experts are likely to recommend treatment and then re-assessment
We may also involve experts who will report on lost earnings for example, a forensic accountant and may include evidence from an employment/vocational expert if the injured person or their carer is unable to return to the employment held at the time of the accident.
We may obtain evidence from a nursing expert who will report on the care and assistance needed now and in the future and possibility an accommodation expert who will report on the type of accommodation needed as a result of the injuries suffered.
In addition to expert evidence, we will prepare detailed witness statements to support every aspect of the case.
Once we have collated all of the supporting evidence we need to assess and value the case, we will prepare a comprehensive document called the “schedule of financial loss” setting out in detail the financial losses incurred because of the injuries suffered. We will also provide advice about how much the claim is worth. It may be necessary to seek advice from a barrister who has the relevant expertise necessary to assess the case.
The next step, if possible, would be to negotiate a settlement with the defendant. The negotiations may be carried out in writing, on the telephone or face to face. If it isn’t possible to agree a compensation figure with the defendant, the next step would be to start formal court proceedings by issuing the claim in court.
In order to commence court proceedings, we will prepare a number of formal documents setting out the detail of the claim and issue them in court. If we are unable to agree on how much compensation the defendant should pay, a judge will decide and the defendant will then be ordered to pay the relevant sum of money. The compensation is likely to be paid in a lump sum but the judge may order that some of it be paid at regular intervals throughout the injured person’s life (periodical payments).
Scenario B – Liability denied
If liability is denied, the same steps apply in terms of obtaining all relevant documentation and evidence to support the claim. However, in addition, we will obtain evidence relating to the incident i.e. a police report, accident report, equipment maintenance records, and statements from eye witnesses. It might also mean obtaining expert liability reports, for example from an accident reconstruction expert or an engineer.
Once we have the evidence we need to prove the case, we then prepare the court documents and start court proceedings. Even if liability is admitted by the defendant, we may advise that court proceedings be issued at an early stage to protect the position for example to prevent the defendant attempting to withdraw an earlier admission of liability.
Once the court papers have been issued in court, we will serve them on the defendant. They will have 28 days to prepare their response or “Defence” in which the opponent will formally explain why they do not accept responsibility for what happened.
The next step is for your solicitor to attend a court hearing to set a timetable or “directions” of steps to be taken leading to a court hearing before a judge. The judge will ultimately decide who is to blame for what happened if liability is denied. It may be necessary to have a second court hearing to determine how much compensation the defendant should pay.
There may be complications which mean the case doesn’t progress exactly as we have described but rest assured we will keep you informed about the progress made and what will happen next.
If the injured person is a child for example, there will be additional steps that must be taken. An example of the additional steps include the fact that any interim payment of compensation and any agreement as to the final settlement award must be approved by a judge and the compensation must be invested until the child is 18 years old.