Without further ado, here is a list of the 21 mistakes someone may make in their personal injury claim:
Not seeing your solicitor in person.
I am of the opinion that when someone is injured and thinking about making a claim the first meeting should be ‘face to face’ with a solicitor. That is true even in relatively minor cases. Dealing with an unqualified person over the telephone or through ‘form filling’ is no way start a relationship with a law firm.
Believing you have to use your Insurer’s Law Firm.
Insurers often give the impression that a client has to use their recommended lawyers. This is not true! A client is free to shop around and use a local firm. An insurer’s law firm may not be the best option, your claim may not be dealt with by a qualified person, they are unlikely to be local and the volume of cases they deal with can be very high. They may still charge you more than a local firm.
Thinking your question might be stupid so not asking it.
Some adverts suggest that making a personal injury claim is easy, so you might feel you can’t ask a question. Do not think like this. This is your claim and you have a right to know what is going on. It isn’t your day job to understand this area of law. Ask, ask, ask. I bet your lawyer couldn’t do your job. Personal injury law is really complicated. Frequently my experienced team of solicitors will disagree on a point – which proves that there aren’t always black and white answers to questions. So feel free to ask your lawyer.
Assuming a compensation claim will be easy.
I never tell my clients this because it rarely is all that easy. Sure, some claims, particularly road accidents can be fairly straight-forward, but most claims have their complexity. And I never think that bringing a claim against an employer [link to Accidents at Work] is easy. It is something that you need to think about carefully. You never know, when you bring a claim, whether you will need to go to court to give evidence as a lawyer cannot know how the other side will approach your claim. Discuss the advantages and potential disadvantages of bringing a claim.
Failing to keep key evidence.
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, clients are understandably preoccupied with their injuries. However, once you have ensured your safety, the next thought should be to preserve as much evidence as possible. For example, if you have a mobile phone with a camera, take as many photographs or videos as you can. Write everything down. The earlier a note is written down, the more weight it will carry should it be needed for court in due course. Make sure you obtain the contact details for any witnesses present. It is always for a Claimant to prove his or her case and not the other way around.
Settling your claim without obtaining medical evidence.
Insurers sometimes respond to a claim by offering a sum of compensation immediately. A lawyer will find it nearly impossible to value your claim without medical evidence, unless you have made a full recovery in a matter of weeks. Occasionally it might be worth accepting such an offer, but I would approach any offer with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Choosing to rely on a GP’s medical report only.
I have lost count of the number of times the prognosis of a GP expert witness has been wrong. What does GP stand for? General Practitioner. I have had clients with injuries which I know the GP has misdiagnosed, and I have said to my clients that they should demand of their GP that they are referred to a consultant. In most cases I will instruct an orthopaedic surgeon for orthopaedic injuries rather than a GP.
Assuming that all law firms are the same.
Many people injured in a road accident use the law firm allocated to them by their insurance company, without questioning whether this law firm is any good. Shop around, use the internet, ask yourself a few questions:
- Is this law firm near you?
- Can you meet your solicitor ‘face to face’?
- Do you trust them?
- Not just that, ask the person handling your case some questions too:
- Are they a qualified solicitor?
- How many clients do they have at any one time? I know of a firm where the paralegals (case handlers who are not even qualified) have up to 500 road traffic accident clients at the same time!
It’s your case – so choose your own lawyer. Many clients feel that they cannot change law firms, but it may be the best option, particularly if your injuries are serious [link to Serious Injury].
Assuming all lawyers are equally skilled and experienced.
We are not! I wouldn’t dream of advising on a house purchase, but I can count on one hand the number of times a client has asked me whether I have dealt with a claim like theirs before. Make sure your lawyer knows his or her stuff. Personal injury claims are hugely important, so don’t trust a novice with your case.
Settling your claim too soon.
I hate it when this happens. My best advice is, if you can, only settle your case when you have made a full physical and psychological recovery. Of course, some injuries are permanent, but if this is the case, make sure that the medical evidence is final. Why is early settlement a problem? Well, say for example, a medical expert states you are likely to make a full recovery in one year, and you settle your claim before that year is up. You are still injured – your injuries might continue beyond the expert’s prediction. If you do continue to suffer, then the chances are you have settled your injury claim for less than it is worth. Once settled, you cannot go back for more, except in rare circumstances.
Believing you can deal direct without a lawyer.
Often insurance companies will try and settle a claim directly with you and tell you that lawyers complicate things – that you will get a better settlement without all those legal fees. This is nonsense. I have spent my professional career bringing claims against insurers. I once had a client who was tempted to accept an insurer’s offer before medical evidence had been obtained. The offer was £5000. He instructed me, and I subsequently recovered £175,000 on his behalf.
Failing to keep records of financial losses.
This is a problem for every personal injury lawyer in the country! Every time you incur a cost because of your accident – or even every time a friend or relative incurs such a cost – write it down. Keep any receipts, record it on your phone, or send it to your lawyer. You should view making a personal injury claim as if you are making any type of insurance claim. Imagine – heaven forbid – that your house is broken into and your wedding ring is stolen. When making a claim on your insurance your insurer will want to see proof of purchase or ownership, and who can blame them? Even with small costs, such as parking at a hospital, physiotherapy appointments and additional take-aways because you cannot cook due to your injuries – the sums all add-up and are potentially claimable. Your lawyer should advise you on what can be claimed.
Failing to inform the medical expert of all symptoms.
Another bane of the personal injury lawyer’s work. If your lawyer sends you to a medical expert, and you don’t tell the doctor about all of your symptoms, it is very unlikely you be able to change the resulting report. Medical reports are crucial in personal injury claims. Reports document your injuries and your prospects of recovering from them. You cannot rely upon the doctor to ask exactly the right questions and extract all information about your injuries. Do not be afraid of doctors. If a doctor doesn’t ask you something and you think it is important, volunteer the information. If your injuries are not mentioned in a medical report, it’s unlikely that you will be compensated for them.
Not telling your lawyer about the mental/psychological side of an injury.
Psychological injuries should not be underestimated;
· Are you losing sleep?
· Has the accident affected you at work?
· Is the accident causing stress at home?
Psychological injuries can often be more significant than the physical. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Make sure that you tell the medical experts how you are feeling.
Assuming that your lawyer always has your case in their mind.
If only this was true. A personal injury lawyer may have over 200 clients at any one time, depending upon how complex the claims are and how much help they have. Some unqualified paralegals have 500 claims. My recommendation is that a client should frequently engage with their lawyer, nudging the lawyer if the lawyer appears to have forgotten them. Incidentally, if you become aware that your case handler has a ridiculously high number of claims to deal with, you should look into changing to another firm of solicitors.
Not accepting a reasonable first offer.
My clients are often told by friends or family not to accept the opponent’s first offer. This may be correct in some circumstances, however if the offer is reasonable and fair it may be appropriate to accept it, even if it is the first offer that the insurer has made.
Worrying that a court hearing will involve a visit to a Court.
A civil claim, like a personal injury claim in the unlikely event that it goes to a trial, will be in front of a judge, not a jury. It’s not scary. In any event I estimate that less than 5% of claims go to trial.
Taking legal advice from unqualified friends and family
Everyone has an opinion about a claim, from a family member to the bloke in the pub. If you have a question, ask your solicitor. If you ask a question and can’t get a satisfactory reply, consider changing solicitors. Comparing the value of claims with other people’s awards is also a common error. Everyone’s claim is different, the value of the claim will depend on the medical evidence, you have instructed a lawyer to value your claim, leave it to your solicitor to value your claim.
You may be tempted to exaggerate the extent of your injuries or inflate the value of your loss of earnings. Don’t do it! This can lead the insurers alleging fundamental dishonesty which, if proved, will lead to no compensation, a costs order against you and even a custodial sentence.
Social Media – be careful what you post
Many of us use twitter, Facebook, Instagram on a daily basis. Insurers routinely access our client’s social media accounts. Insurers will use this to gather information to contradict a client’s case, for example the nature and extend of the injuries. Be careful what you post as this could be very damaging to your case.
Understand from the firm you instruct what you will have to pay if the claim fails and what you will have to pay if you win. Some personal injury firms have a fixed deduction of 25% of damages, others will deduct a premium for an insurance policy. How much is it and when does it have to be paid?
If you would like to make a personal injury claim with experienced, specialist solicitors, contact Richard Meggitt of ASD Solicitors [link goes to a different solicitors website, is this correct] for a chat about your case. We offer free consultations in your home, at our office or on the telephone with no obligation to proceed further. Our fee structure is simple and easy to understand with no loans, interest or insurance premiums to pay.
We have been acting for local people like you since 1984.