Any questions? We’ve tried to cover them here.
I have suffered an injury or developed an illness and believe someone else may be at fault What can I do?
If you have suffered injuries and financial loss because of an accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
If either an individual or a company has been negligent and the accident happened because of this; and your injuries were as a direct result of the accident (or an existing medical condition was made worse); and the likely value of your injuries is at least £1,000, we may be able to assist you in making a claim.
Even if you were partly to blame for the accident you may still be able to make a claim, but in this situation your compensation would be reduced to reflect the part you played.
Compensation can be claimed following most types of accidents, and which may have happened at work, on the road, in a public place (eg in the street, in a shop or a restaurant), in someone’s home or while you are abroad.
Claims can also be made when an illness or medical condition has resulted from another party’s negligence or from poor working conditions.
However, not every accident or medical condition entitles you to compensation and it is important to obtain the right advice.
Normally you must start your claim within 3 years of the accident happening, otherwise any entitlement to compensation will be lost. In the case of an illness or medical condition, this 3 year period starts when you first become aware that your condition may be because of someone else’s negligence.
You can claim 2 types of compensation – “general damages” and “special damages”.
General damages are for the actual injuries, to compensate you for the pain and suffering, and to reflect any inability to carry out your normal life following the accident (eg being unable to work or enjoy a hobby).
Special damages are for the financial losses you have suffered or will suffer in the future as a result of the injuries (eg lost wages, which can sometimes be a large sum), and for any expenses incurred because of the accident (eg prescription charges, or travelling expenses in visiting your GP or going to hospital).
In claims of this type, we will act for you under the terms of a Conditional Fee Agreement, which means we are only paid for the work we have done if your claim succeeds. Therefore if your claim is not successful you will not have to pay any legal costs.
On 1 April 2013 the law changed and substantially reduced the legal costs paid by the party found to be responsible for your injuries. We will recover as much as possible from them, and deduct the shortfall from your compensation.
The shortfall will include a “success fee” and legal expenses insurance premium, which the party at fault is no longer required to pay. However, we will limit the amount we deduct to no more than 25% of your compensation. This means that no matter how high our costs are, you will receive at least 75% of your compensation.
At the start of your claim we will clearly explain how our costs and the “success fee” are calculated. We will also give you our initial assessment of the value of your injuries, so you have some idea of the net amount you could receive if successful.
If your claim is not successful you become responsible for any expenses we incurred on your behalf (eg fees for medical reports, and any Court fees).
In certain situations you might also be liable for the other party’s legal costs.
To protect you, the claim will be covered by a legal expenses insurance policy that we will arrange. The premium is payable at the end of the claim, but only if you are successful.
You may already have legal expenses cover or access to legal advice through union membership. It is your responsibility to check the position and choose who should handle your claim. For economic reasons we can only act for you on the basis of the scheme outlined here.
We will tell you straight away if your claim has a reasonable chance of success. If you are happy to accept our scheme and instruct us to represent you, we will then ask you to sign our contractual documents and start your claim. These early stages can be very confusing, but we will explain everything clearly as we go along.
Most claims are now dealt with using an online system. Details of your claim are set out in a specific form, a copy of which we will send to you for approval. The form is then sent electronically to the insurers of the person believed to be responsible for your injuries. They have a set time scale within which to confirm whether they accept responsibility or will defend the claim.
Medical evidence will be obtained, together with details of your financial losses and expenses. Sometimes it is necessary to obtain statements from witnesses and investigate in more detail the circumstances leading to your injuries. We then explore with the other party whether the claim can be settled.
In most cases it is possible to resolve matters without involving the Court, but if it is not possible to agree a settlement Court proceedings may be issued. Even after this happens, very few cases end up at a trial.
Depending on the circumstances, road accident cases could take around 4 to 5 months to complete, and other cases around 9 to 12 months.
Throughout the claim we will let you know what is happening and explain each step taken.
Legal advice is essential when making a claim for compensation for injuries or illness. This is the only area of law that we deal with and we are experts. We have many years of experience and have recovered millions of pounds in compensation for our clients. We can quickly assess whether your claim is likely to succeed and then investigate its full value, so you receive the maximum amount possible. We rarely advise acceptance of the other party’s first offer.
Your claim will be handled by a specialist lawyer, who is easy to contact and able to give you all the time and attention you need.
We are always pleased to see you, but if you do not want to visit us, we can deal with everything on the phone and in writing.
We give you 100% commitment and will take whatever steps are necessary to promote a successful claim. All we ask is for your full co-operation and that you work with us to ensure everything proceeds as smoothly and as quickly as possible.
Our aim is to provide a fast, friendly and professional service, and much of our work comes from clients recommending us to friends and family.
We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Our lawyers are members of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the firm is an accredited practice. We are committed to the APIL Code of Conduct & Consumer Charter (visit www.apil.com for details).
Our Head of Department Phillip Roberts is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel.
Our Principal Steven Hinchliffe spent 12 years as a Deputy District Judge.
Making a claim for personal injury compensation What action is likely to be taken?
We will assume you have suffered injuries and financial loss because of an accident that was not your fault (or you have developed an illness or medical condition because of someone else’s negligence) and we are helping you claim compensation.
Most claims are normally completed within 9 to 12 months (or 4 to 5 months for road accidents), but the time required depends on the individual circumstances of each case. Although this might seem to be a long time, a lot happens during this period. We outline the action that we are likely to take during a routine claim, so you have some idea of what might happen and what you may be asked to do.
The vast majority of cases are completed without having to go to Court, but if it is necessary for the Court to become involved in your claim, we will guide you through the process and hopefully ease your concerns.
Most claims start in the same way, and we can usually deal with everything on the phone and in writing, so you do not need to visit our office. However, we are always pleased to see you.
At the beginning of your case we will need you to tell us exactly what happened and how your life has been affected. We may need you to send us photos or documents that help to explain the situation.
We will arrange for you to have appropriate insurance cover, just in case you become responsible for paying any of your opponent’s legal costs and the expenses that we incur on your behalf.
To comply with professional rules we must set out in writing the basis on which we will act for you. We will therefore send you a detailed client care letter, a Conditional Fee Agreement and related documents, which form our contract with you. We then discuss these documents so you understand what they mean and if you are happy to proceed, we ask you to sign and return them to us. Once received, we are then able to start your claim.
We will ask you to sign various forms of authority to enable us to obtain copies of relevant records. These will usually be in respect of the records held by your GP and any hospital or medical practitioner who has provided you with treatment.
We usually need to obtain your GP records, even if you have not seen your doctor following the accident. This is because the medical expert who prepares a report on your injuries needs to consider your pre-accident health in case this affects any recommended treatment or the value of your claim. However, sometimes we may decide that the records are not required, particularly in straight forward road accident cases where the injuries were minor.
We may also need to obtain records relating to your income, and occasionally Personnel and Occupational Health records.
Usually we set out details of your claim in a specific form and copy it to you for approval. We then post a copy to the party believed to be responsible for your injuries. This is for them to pass to their insurers, unless we already have the insurers’ details and can send an electronic copy direct to them through an online portal. The insurers have a set time in which to decide whether to accept responsibility for your injuries (3 weeks for road accidents; 6 weeks for work accidents; 8 weeks for other types of accidents). If they do not comply with this time limit or choose to defend the claim, it then leaves the portal system thereby increasing the amount of legal costs they must pay if you win.
Some claims are not suitable for the portal system, eg if the accident was not in England or Wales. In this situation we send your opponent a detailed letter in a set format to pass to their insurers. The letter indicates why we think they were at fault, but is not threatening or intended to cause offence. The insurers normally have about 4 months to decide whether to accept or defend the claim.
We will arrange an appointment for you to see a local medical expert and may ask you to keep a diary of your symptoms. The expert then prepares a detailed report describing your injuries, any treatment received or suggested, and a likely timescale for you to achieve a full recovery. We will send you a copy for approval.
If we think rehabilitation treatment (such as physiotherapy) may help you to recover faster, we will encourage your opponent’s insurers to pay for this on a private basis so it can be arranged quickly.
In the more complex or disputed claims we will need to prepare a written statement in which you describe what happened and how your life has been affected. Statements from other people might also be necessary, if they witnessed the accident or were involved in some other way.
We will ask you for details of any financial losses or expenses that are a direct result of the accident, and will normally need receipts or other supporting documents, eg pay slips. We then prepare a list for you to approve, called a “Schedule of Special Damages”. Items such as lost wages, travel expenses in going to medical appointments, and the cost of private treatment and painkillers can be included.
Once we have your medical report and Schedule of Special Damages, we can then assess the full value of your claim. We compare your situation with similar cases where compensation has already been paid, and also look at the Court’s guidelines on the value of certain injuries.
If your claim is very complicated we might send details to a Barrister for advice on the amount of compensation that a Judge at a trial could possibly award you, and if appropriate to consider the strengths and weaknesses in the case. However, this is only usually necessary if your injuries are severe or if your claim is being defended by your opponent and the Court might need to become involved.
For you to have the best chance of success and to receive the maximum compensation that you are entitled to, you must co-operate fully at every stage of your claim. We will keep you up to date with progress and will explain everything to you as we go along.
Whether or not responsibility for your accident is accepted, we try and agree a settlement of your claim. We put proposals to your opponent, having first agreed them with you, but will not advise you to accept any offer they might make unless we feel it appropriately compensates you in all the circumstances of the case.
Within a few weeks of reaching agreement with your opponent we will receive your compensation. We deduct the costs you are responsible for and send the balance to you, which will be at least 75% of the total sum. By this time we will have made a claim for the proportion of the costs that your opponent is responsible for and will give you full details once they are agreed and paid.
Not every claim is successful. For example, if your opponent denies responsibility for the accident and makes a strong case, we may conclude that if a Judge at a trial has to assess your claim you might not win, and in that situation the claim would be stopped. Or a trial may take place and you lose. In either event, any costs you then become responsible for will be paid by the legal expenses insurance policy, and not by you.
What can I include in my claim for compensation and how is this valued? Compensation explained
If you have suffered injuries and financial loss because of an accident that was not your fault (or you have developed an illness or medical condition because of someone else’s negligence) you can claim 2 types of compensation:-
“General Damages” – for your injuries
“Special Damages” – for your financial losses and expenditure resulting directly from the accident
This is to compensate you for your “pain, suffering and loss of amenity”, and often forms the largest part of the claim.
The amount of general damages that you might receive is based on the type of injuries suffered, how long it takes for you to recover and whether you will have any continuing symptoms or permanent issues, such as scarring.
The “loss of amenity” element reflects the way in which your life has been affected by the accident, even if only for a short time. For example, you may not have been able to participate in a particular hobby because of your injuries, or been able to carry out your usual domestic tasks (such as cleaning or gardening). If your injuries are severe, this element also covers any changes that you have to make in your employment because you could not continue with your normal tasks.
This is to reimburse any financial losses you have suffered and any expenses you have to pay because of the accident. Examples of typical items that can be included in your special damages appear below.
At an early stage of the claim we will send you a questionnaire to complete with any items that you are then aware of. When you return this to us, we will also need you to provide any receipts, invoices or other documents that you have to support the items you wish to claim. It can sometimes be difficult to recover particular expenses without some proof that they have been incurred. You will need to let us know of any additional items you wish to include, and before we start settlement negotiations we will prepare a list of everything you have made us aware of for you to approve. This list is known as the “Schedule of Special Damages”.
Loss of earnings
This includes not only the wages you have already lost, but if appropriate, any anticipated future income that you will not now receive because of your injuries.
We calculate your losses by asking your employer for details of everything paid to you during the 13 weeks before the accident and also since the accident until the point you make a full recovery.
In addition to any Statutory Sick Pay, if your employer paid you anything while you were off work and your contract of employment requires you to recover this as part of any claim, we will include this amount to enable you to reimburse your employer from your compensation.
Calculating your anticipated future loss of earnings can be more difficult, but is usually only necessary if your injuries are very severe. In such cases we might need to assess the level of any pay increases, promotion prospects and other benefits (eg pension rights) that you would likely have enjoyed if the accident had not happened.
you can either claim the actual fare paid (eg for bus, train or taxi) or 45p per mile plus any parking fee, for journeys taken because of the accident, eg:-
a) Visits to your GP, hospital or other practitioner providing treatment.
b) Attending the appointment with the medical expert.
c) Other journeys related to the accident, but you will need to state why these were necessary.
d) Journeys by close relatives to visit you in hospital.
Medical and care expenses
These items can include:-
a) Prescription charges.
b) Non-prescription items, such as pain killers, surgical supports, bandages, etc.
c) Treatment provided by a physiotherapist or other practitioner on a private basis.
d) Private hospital treatment, but usually only if the NHS waiting list is too long and your opponent agrees to meet this cost.
e) Assistance provided by family or friends (eg with cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene, etc), claimed at an hourly rate for the time spent.
f) Care provided by Social Services or a private agency.
Other expenses or items of specific loss
These items can include:-
a) Repair or replacement of damaged clothing, jewellery or other belongings.
b) Specific items required because of the injuries, eg larger clothes or shoes while in plaster.
c) Increased cost for gas or electricity because you had to spend more time at home than normal.
d) Additional telephone and postal costs in contacting people involved in the claim.
e) Vehicle repair or storage costs and any policy excess, following a car accident.
f) Costs incurred in employing others to carry out domestic cleaning, decorating, general DIY, gardening, etc that you would have dealt with yourself but were unable to because of your injuries.
g) Sums lost in having to cancel activities or holidays.
h) Costs incurred in obtaining specialised equipment or in adapting your home or car if your injuries are particularly severe.
It is not always possible to recover every item that you claim, but the more evidence you can provide in support of each one, the greater the chance of you recovering it.
We will arrange for a medical expert to examine you and prepare a detailed report describing your injuries, any treatment received or suggested and indicating when you are likely to make a full recovery. We will send you a copy for approval.
We can then assess the amount of general damages you are likely to receive. We do this by comparing your situation with similar cases where compensation has already been paid, and also by looking at the Court’s guidelines on the value of certain injuries. If your claim is particularly complex we might send details to a Barrister for advice on the amount that a Judge at a trial would be likely to award you.
Once you have approved both the medical report and Schedule of Special Damages, we will send copies to your opponent with the aim of negotiating a settlement. We will consult you before reaching any final agreement.
If these negotiations are not successful an application to the Court may be necessary, and if so we will explain the process to you. It is still possible to agree a settlement even after the Court has become involved and very few cases end up at a trial.
If the accident was party your fault, your compensation may be reduced to reflect this.
Your opponent may have to repay any State benefits that you receive as a direct result of the accident, and they take this into account when considering your Schedule of Special Damages. This is to ensure you are not paid twice for the same item. We will let you know if this will apply in your case.
Taking my claim to Court What happens when Court proceedings become necessary?
If it is not possible to settle your claim within the statutory period (usually 3 years from the accident date or from you becoming aware that your medical condition is because of someone else’s negligence) and your opponent has either denied responsibility, or has accepted they were at fault but the amount of compensation cannot be agreed, the Court will need to become involved. We will therefore take the necessary steps to issue Court proceedings on your behalf.
Even after this point, your claim could still be settled by agreement and we will continue to try and achieve this. Very few cases actually have to be decided by a Judge at a trial.
If your claim is subsequently lost, you may be required to pay some or all of your opponent’s legal costs, but we will ensure you have adequate insurance or other cover to protect you from this potential risk (so long as you have fully complied with your obligations).
Before Court proceedings are issued, and with your agreement, we will usually have notified your opponent of the terms on which you are willing to settle the claim. This is known as a “Part 36 Offer” and is an important tactic, because if your opponent does not accept it and subsequently the Judge at a trial decides that you should receive an amount equal to or higher than the offer, your opponent may have to pay additional sums as a penalty.
Various documents are sent to a central Court office setting out details of your claim. You will have approved them in advance and include:-
Particulars of Claim – this briefly describes what happened and why you believe your opponent was to blame.
Medical Evidence – this sets out the injuries you have suffered, any treatment received or suggested, and indicates when you are likely to recover.
Schedule of Special Damages – this is a list of your financial losses and any expenditure resulting directly from the accident or act of negligence.
The Court sends a copy of the documents to your opponent or their solicitors, who then have 14 days to indicate whether they intend to defend the claim. If so, within a further 14 days they must provide us and the Court with a written “Defence”, setting out why they believe they are not responsible. We will send you a copy and ask for your comments.
Many new claims are dealt with in online portals where the procedure is simpler and if the claim is admitted but the amount of the compensation cannot be agreed there is a shortened procedure and in most cases the amount will be fixed by a Judge without anyone having to go to Court.
Both before and after Court proceedings are issued the parties must consider whether some form of alternative dispute resolution (eg mediation or arbitration) would assist in resolving the claim, and if relevant, we will raise this with you at the appropriate time.
Once the papers have been transferred to an appropriate Court (usually one local to the parties) an “Order” is made setting out what needs to be done to prepare the claim for a trial, and the date by which each step must be completed. The Court expects the parties to agree this timetable in advance, and aims for the claim to be ready for a trial within 6 months.
We will do whatever is necessary to get your case ready for trial and will send to you any documents that require your approval. At certain stages we must also provide the Court and your opponent with full details of the legal costs that we have already incurred and are likely to incur in the future in dealing with the claim on your behalf, and we must also send a copy to you.
Occasionally a Judge may wish to discuss specific issues with the parties as the claim proceeds, but you will not normally need to be present during these discussions.
The steps usually taken include:-
List of Documents and Disclosure
Each party must prepare a formal list of all the documents they have that are relevant to the claim, even if some may assist their opponent’s case. The “List of Documents” is then sent to the Court, and also to the other party who can request copies of any of the documents identified.
Each party must set out the detail of their case in witness statements.
We will prepare a statement from you, and if necessary from other people who perhaps saw what happened or have provided you with help in some way.
Your opponent must prepare statements from everyone who can assist their case.
The parties then send copies of their statements to the Court, and also to each other at exactly the same time. We will send you copies of your opponent’s statements and ask for your comments. If a trial is necessary, it is usual for all of the witnesses to attend to give evidence.
Further Medical Evidence
If you have ongoing symptoms you may be allowed to obtain additional medical reports, which must be copied to the Court and to your opponent.
If your opponent disagrees with the reports that we have obtained they may be allowed to get their own medical evidence, and must send a copy to the Court and to us (which we will copy to you). An appointment will be arranged with their choice of expert that you must attend.
The parties may be allowed to ask questions of each expert. If both parties have obtained their own reports, the experts will prepare a joint statement setting out the issues upon which they agree and disagree and if a trial is necessary, they may need to attend to give evidence.
Arranging the Trial Date
The Court usually allocates a 3 week period during which the trial should take place and the parties can state if there are any dates that are not appropriate, for example if a witness will be on holiday. The Court will then fix a date for the trial. Most trials only take one day.
We will normally arrange for a Barrister to represent you at the trial and although the Court procedure is formal, you should not be frightened by it as real trials are rarely as dramatic as those seen on TV.
The Judge will have seen the documents relevant to your claim in advance, and at the start of the trial the case is summarised and any preliminary matters are dealt with.
Under oath, your Barrister will then ask you about your claim and highlight the contents of your statement. The Judge and your opponent’s Barrister can then ask you questions. Any witnesses and experts supporting your case will be questioned in a similar way. Your opponent’s Barrister will then speak to any witnesses and experts supporting their case, and the Judge and your Barrister can ask them questions.
Once all of the relevant issues have been discussed each Barrister sums up the evidence, emphasising the factors they feel are particularly important. The Judge then makes a decision. If your opponent is found to have been negligent and this caused your injuries, the Judge will then assess the compensation you should receive, and finally will deal with issues concerning the legal costs.
If a claim is for someone under 18, a Judge must approve any settlement agreed between the parties. Court proceedings are started in a similar way and a short Court appointment is then arranged, when the medical evidence and financial losses are considered to ensure the compensation is fair. The approved sum is then invested by the Court until the child’s 18th birthday.
Complaints procedure How we deal with a complaint about our handling of your Personal Injury claim
We are committed to providing a high-quality service to our clients. This includes a commitment to putting things right if they unfortunately go wrong. This policy explains how we will deal with any complaint made to us.
If there is something you are unhappy with please let us know, as this will help us to maintain and improve our standards. For example, an issue might arise about the way we have treated you, the quality of our advice, or any invoice that we have sent to you.
If you have a complaint please contact Steven Hinchliffe, who is the firm’s Principal.
You can do so by post at Hinchliffes Solicitors, Byre Court, Sandys Road, Malvern, Worcs, WR14 1JJ or by e-mail at [email protected] It is best for you to put your concerns in writing, but if you would prefer not to or would find this difficult, he can also be contacted by phone on 01684 580908.
To explain how long this procedure might take, we have set out our target times for each stage of the process. If it is not possible to meet any of these limits Steven Hinchliffe will let you know and explain why.
You will not be charged for the time we spend in dealing with a complaint.
Steven Hinchliffe will deal with the issues raised by you, and will send you a letter that acknowledges receipt of your complaint and confirms what will happen next. If necessary he may ask you to confirm or explain some or all of the matters you raise. You can expect to receive this initial letter from him within 2 working days of receiving your complaint.
He will record your complaint in our Central Register of Complaints file and will open a section within the file, where he will keep all correspondence and documents relating to the matter. He will do this within one working day of receiving your complaint.
If he has asked you for further confirmation or additional details, he will acknowledge receipt of your reply and will then confirm what is to happen next. You can expect to hear from him within 2 working days of receiving your reply. However, if further details of your complaint were not requested, this stage will be unnecessary.
He will then start to investigate your complaint. This may involve one or more of the following steps.
- He will consider your complaint and will send you his detailed reply and invite you to discuss the matter with him, either face to face or on the phone. He will write to you within 7 working days of his previous letter.
- When considering your complaint he will speak to the person (or people) who handled your claim and will also examine your file.
When he discusses your complaint and his detailed reply we hope it will be possible to resolve matters to your satisfaction at that stage.
Within 2 working days of his discussion with you, he will write to you to confirm what was discussed. He will set out any solutions that have been agreed with you, and will also confirm any issues that remain unresolved.
If you do not want to discuss matters with him, you may respond to his detailed reply in writing. He will then send a further reply to you, and if appropriate this will contain suggestions for resolving the matter. You can expect to receive this further letter within 7 working days of receiving your reply.
At this stage, if you notify him in writing that you remain dissatisfied, he will then arrange to review his decision and will write to you with the result within 7 working days of receiving your written notification. When you notify him, please set out the issues you are still unhappy about.
In reviewing his decision, he may arrange for another lawyer within the firm to consider your complaint, any further information that you have provided, the letters written to you in reply and your file.
When writing to you with the result of this review we will confirm the final position on your complaint and explain the reasons for our conclusions.
After 8 weeks from the date we first received details of your complaint, if matters remain unresolved you should confirm this to us in writing.
If we are unable to settle your complaint using our internal complaints process you have a right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, an independent complaints body, established under the Legal Services Act 2007 that deals with legal services complaints.
You have 6 months from the date of our final letter in which to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
PO Box 6806
Telephone: 0300 555 0333
Minicom 0300 555 1777
Email address: [email protected]
Alternative complaints bodies such as ProMediate (website: www.promediate.co.uk) exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and we wish to use such a scheme. However, we do not agree to use ProMediate, or any other alternative complaints body.
Further, you can only refer a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 years from the date of the act or omission complained about, or 3 years from the date when you knew or ought to have known about the act or omission complained about.
If you are a client and we have made a contract with you by electronic means you may be entitled to use a European Union online dispute resolution service to assist with any contractual dispute you may have with us. This service can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/odr. Our email address is [email protected]
If your complaint occurs before the conclusion of your claim you will still be able to continue with it.
Following a full investigation of your complaint, if you or we feel it to be inappropriate for us to continue to handle the claim on your behalf, your file can be transferred to another firm of solicitors of your choice.
If you make a complaint we sincerely hope to be able to resolve it with you.
We value you and it is our wish to restore your confidence in us so that you feel able to remain a client of the firm.