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The truth about accident claims

This article appeared in the November 2009 edition of Chic Lifestyle magazine.
accident claims

We’ve all heard the catchy slogans on the TV adverts; ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’, and we’ve been promised that we will ‘keep 100% of your compensation’. In fact, it all seems a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?

So what is the truth about accident claims? What does ‘no win-no fee’ really mean? And when are you entitled to make a claim for compensation?

Here, Chris Middleton of Norrie Waite & Slater solicitors, answers these and other questions about accident compensation claims.

Do I have a claim?

The starting point of any claim is to analyse what has happened and who is to blame. If you have suffered an injury and it was not your fault, and it can be proven that someone else had been negligent, you should be able to make a claim. If you are unsure about whether you have a valid claim you should speak to an experienced solicitor who will assess your accident and tell you if you have a valid claim for compensation.

Funding your compensation claim.

Most claims these days are funded on a ‘no win-no fee’ basis, otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement. This arrangement became popular after the government withdrew legal aid for most types of personal injury claims. ‘No win-no fee’ basically means that you do not have to pay your solicitors legal fees, win or lose. If your case is successful, the losing side has to pay your solicitors fees – in addition to your compensation (this is where the phrase ‘keep 100% of your compensation’ originates from.) If your case in unsuccessful, your solicitor does not get paid for their work.

What can I claim for?

The circumstances of each accident are different and the amount of compensation will depend on a number of factors. Compensation payments are generally made up of two parts. General damages, these are commonly paid for what is known as pain and suffering. The amount paid under this element will depend on the type and severity of the injury suffered, how long you suffered for, and whether or not you have any ongoing problems associated with the injury. If the claim is worth less than £1000, you cannot recover your costs. Special damages are paid to cover your out of pocket expenses. This could be loss of earnings, medical expenses, travel expenses, etc.

Will I have to go to court?

The vast majority of cases never get to court. Most cases are settled out of court by negotiation between your solicitor and the insurer of the party at fault.

Common types of accident claims

Road Accidents

Claims for injuries such as whiplash are common by vehicle drivers, but it is important to remember that you don’t need to be the driver to be able to make a claim; passengers and pedestrians can claim too. Sometimes people are reluctant to make a claim if they were injured as a passenger in a family member or friend’s vehicle, and the driver of that vehicle was to blame for the accident. All road users are required by law to have insurance, and it is the insurers who will usually pay out the compensation, not the driver.

Work Accidents

Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for employees. If you have been injured, due to the negligence of your employer or a co-worker, you can claim compensation for your injuries.

A question we are often asked is; ‘if I claim against my employer, can they sack me?’ It is illegal for your employer to dismiss you simply for making a personal injury claim against them. If they were to do this you would be able to make a claim for wrongful dismissal under UK employment law.

Employers are obliged to take out Employers Liability Insurance to cover them in the event of an accident in the workplace. If you make a claim for compensation for an injury at work it will usually be your employer’s insurer who will pay your compensation.

Accidents in Public Places

This type of claim often involves someone who has suffered an injury due to slipping or tripping.  Common examples of this are: tripping on a poorly maintained footpath, where the local authority are responsible for maintaining it, or a slip in a supermarket, caused by a spillage or other obstruction.

Local authorities are responsible for maintaining footpaths, highways and other public areas. If you trip on a pavement due to a poorly maintained surface, a pothole or other defect, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Similarly, landlords and owners of public buildings such as shops, supermarkets and other business premises have a duty to ensure their premises are safe for members of the public. Occupiers of premises used by the public are obliged to take out Public Liability Insurance to cover them in the event of an injury to a member of the public.

Child Accidents

If your child is involved in an accident and suffers an injury due to someone’s negligence, you may be able to claim compensation on their behalf. Whether your child was at school or nursery, injured in a car accident or injured in a public place, you can make a claim for compensation on their behalf if they are under 18 years of age.

When your child is at nursery or school, they are owed a high standard of care by the people responsible for ensuring their safety. This means giving them adequate supervision, ensuring equipment is safe and being alert to the fact that children are naturally less aware of danger than adults.

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Our lawyers offer legal advice and representation at court or the police station on a private or legal aid basis. Legal aid is available in some areas of law only. Please see our pages on legal aid for more advice. We offer a free initial consultation in some areas of law. Personal Injury compensation claims can be conducted on a 'no win no fee' basis.