Legal Information Centre

25 June 2008 by Mary Heaney

Personal Injury law explained

Law firm Rollingsons gives an overview of personal injury law and what to do if you have had an accident.

Law firm Rollingsons gives a brief overview of personal injury law.

This area of law covers all cases where personal injury has been suffered through the fault of a third party. Personal injury law can be categorised in to separate areas that include accidents that occur at work, road traffic accidents, public liability claims including slips and trips, disease cases, clinical negligence and injury suffered to victims of violent crime amongst others.

1. If I have an accident and suffer injury am I automatically entitled to compensation?

The answer here is no, there is no automatic right to compensation. As a person wishing to pursue a claim for compensation you are required to prove two fundamental aspects of any claim. Firstly, you must prove that the accident occurred as a direct result of the negligence and/or breach of statutory duty of a third party. This essentially means that you must prove that someone is liable for causing your accident. Secondly, you must prove that the injury you have sustained has arisen as a direct consequence of the accident as opposed to any other factors. This is achieved by obtaining medical evidence which must link your injuries with the accident or cause of action. It is only when these two aspects of the claim have been established are you entitled to recover compensation.

2. Can I only recover compensation if I have suffered a physical injury?

Providing you are able to prove the two fundamental aspects of the claim as described above, you will be entitled to compensation for all types of injury both physical and psychological in nature. In the case of a fatality, damages can also be awarded to the dependants of the deceased and the Claimant’s estate.

3. What am I entitled to by way of compensation?

You are entitled to recover compensation for two separate heads of damage.

a. Pain, suffering and loss of amenity – this head of damages provides compensation for the injury itself. The level of damages awarded is dependent upon the duration of time the symptoms are suffered and the manner in which the injury has affected your day-to-day life.

b. Financial losses – you are entitled to the reimbursement of all out of pocket expenses that have reasonably been incurred as a direct result of the accident. This can include financial losses sustained since the accident date and losses that are likely to be sustained in the future.

5. How do you calculate the amount I should receive in compensation for my injuries?

The court has provided a booklet called the Judicial Studies Guide which provides some guidance as to the amount a particular injury is likely to be awarded at court. In addition to this guidebook, reference is made to past cases already decided by the court where similar injuries suffered over a similar period of time have been considered and compensation awarded. Your legal representative will take these matters into consideration and should advise you on the appropriate damages award applicable in your case

6. Is there a time limit in which I can bring a claim?

Yes, for an action in personal injury, proceedings must be commenced at court within three years from the date on which the cause of action arose, (e.g. the date of the accident) or the date of the Claimant’s knowledge of the cause of action, if later. If you fail to adhere to this time limit, otherwise known as the limitation date, and you do not issue court proceedings in time, then your claim will be statute barred and you will not be entitled to recover compensation.

7. Are there any exception to this rule?

The exception to this rule occurs when the Claimant is a person under a legal disability. A person under a  disability in law is defined as a child or a patient, who by reasons of mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 is incapable of managing and administrating their own affairs. In these cases, the limitation period starts to run from the date the disability ceases. In the case of a child the disability ceases on the child reaching the age of eighteen. Therefore court proceedings must be issued at court before the child’s twenty first birthday.

8. Am I entitled to Legal Aid to pursue a personal injury claim?

The general rule is that Legal Aid is not available to anyone wanting to pursue a personal injury claim. The only exception is in clinical negligence cases. There are various means of legally funding a claim. The most common is through the provision of legal expenses insurance if available, or via a Conditional Fee Agreement, otherwise known as a “no win, no fee” agreement. Your legal representative should advise you from the outset on the most appropriate means available to you for funding your legal charges.

9. What do I do if I have suffered an injury and I am considering pursuing a claim?

It is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible if it is your intention to pursue a claim. Whilst you may have three years in which to issue court proceedings at court, the sooner your claim can be investigated the easier it is to obtain evidence to support your claim and ultimately succeed. It is often a Claimant’s best option to contact a firm of solicitors directly in order to seek legal advice on the pursuit of a claim and generally firms of solicitors are willing to offer a free initial consultation.

Rollingsons is a London law firm

Click here to read 'Advice from personal injury lawyers on how to make your claim'


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