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Turning an injury into compensation

In my experience, many people put off making a personal injury claim because they are uncertain about the process and worried about the possible cost.

If you are thinking of bringing a personal injury, clinical negligence or industrial disease claim, it is worth knowing the basics before proceeding:

  • why you might bring a claim;
  • what you are claiming for;
  • when you need to bring a claim; and
  • how you can fund a claim.

You can only make a claim if your injury is due to someone else’s negligence.  Just because you have had an accident and injured yourself, it does not automatically mean you will be entitled to compensation; even if your injuries are serious and you cannot work.

It is for the injured party to prove that their injuries or illnesses were caused by the negligence of another party, whether that is another driver, an employer or a medical professional. It is the job of the lawyer to gather the evidence necessary to prove that the other party has been negligent.

What you are claiming for

I am often asked by clients during initial meetings how much compensation they are likely to receive for their injury or illness. It is very difficult to give any indication of the value of most claims at the outset because we simply do not have all the information we need at this early stage.

However, usually compensation will be made up of a sum for the pain and suffering caused to you by the injury or illness, together with any losses and expenses such as medical bills or loss of earnings.

In order to value a claim properly your lawyer will need to obtain a medical report on your injuries from an expert. For example, a Consultant Neurologist in the case of a head injury, or a Consultant Spinal Surgeon for a back injury. Sometimes, multiple reports are necessary if there are several different injuries. The relevant expert will be able to give a proper diagnosis of someone’s injuries, the likely impact on their employment and a prognosis for the future. All these factors will assist your lawyer in determining the value of a claim.

Medical experts will also be able to pick up on any pre-existing problems someone might have and distinguish these from the symptoms caused exclusively by negligence. This is particularly relevant in claims against the medical profession. Most people who go to hospital are already unwell in some way, so the expert will need to identify what additional problems the negligence has caused and what the position would be but for the negligence.

When you need to bring a claim

The standard rule is that you can usually only make a claim within the 3 year period following an accident. This is known as the ‘prescription period’ in Jersey.  However, there are exceptions to this rule where the person making the claim:

  • is a child at the time of the accident. They will have until their 21st birthday to make a claim (3 years after they turn 18);
  • dies, then their estate has 3 years from the date of death to bring a claim;
  • cannot know at the time that their injuries or illnesses are as a result of negligence. This might happen in cases of asbestos related disease or medical negligence claims.

These exceptions are not exhaustive; there are other examples where claims can be brought outside the 3 year period. It is always prudent to seek advice from a lawyer as soon as you feel able to do so. Claims take time to investigate and the sooner you act, the better.

How you can fund a claim

Cost is often a major concern for those wishing to bring claims. Legal fees can be expensive but there are several funding options you can explore:

Legal Aidyou will be assessed on your income, savings and assets in order to determine whether you can afford a monthly contribution to your legal fees;

Insurance: some people have legal expenses insurance as part of their car or home and contents policy. It is always worth checking to see if you will be covered as many people do not realise they have the benefit of this;

Union Membership: many unions offer legal assistance to their members. If you are a member of any union, you should check with them to see if you are covered;

Private Funding Arrangements: lots of law firms offer affordable funding arrangements for payment of their legal fees based on your individual circumstances.

At Viberts, we have significant experience in dealing with personal injury claims and have had a number of successes in complex cases. If you have suffered an injury due to somebody else’s negligence and think you may be entitled to compensation, Viberts can help.

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