If you or someone in your family was involved in a preventable accident and there’s a possibility that the injuries could have come about as a result of negligent or careless behaviour, a personal injury claim may be the right choice. Taking legal action will hopefully lead to the liable parties being held responsible and ensure that appropriate compensation is awarded to the victim. Sounds easy on paper, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, the legal process can be long and complex. “The majority of personal injury cases are completed within six to nine months of the process being started. However, it should be noted that depending on the nature and details of your claim, the amount of time can vary from a few months to a number of years in order to see it through,” advises one expert in the field.
While you should always have the benefit of your personal injury solicitor’s expertise to guide you, it doesn’t do to underestimate the potentially huge physical and mental health implications on your ability to deal with the situation. In addition to physical pain and medical treatment, there may be emotional trauma to cope with, not to mention the added financial burden of medical bills, lost earnings and more.
We’ve put together some of the most common mistakes you should absolutely avoid when making a personal injury claim.
1.Dealing direct, without the help of a lawyer
You may be tempted to do away with legal representation and deal with insurance companies yourself. Indeed, they may have advised you that settling a claim directly with them will lead to a better outcome for you, and without the need for costly legal fees. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Given the vast in-house resources and legal knowhow of an insurance company, how well could you possibly do against them? What sort of a fight could you put up?
A specialist personal injury lawyer, on the other hand, will have built up vast experience in a wide range of injury, accident and medical negligence claims and know exactly how to approach your case. Many even offer no win, no fee agreements, meaning they will only charge you as and when your compensation is paid.
2. Assuming that all law firms are the same
With something as critical as a personal injury case, it pays to do a little research to find the best person to represent you. It’s your health and wellbeing at stake, so don’t be fobbed off by being allocated a law firm by an insurance company without checking that they are the best people for the job. You can, and should, choose your own lawyer.
Use the internet to shop around for personal injury specialist for your particular situation. Did you have an accident at work or on holiday? Are you making a medical claim or were you involved in a road traffic accident? There are lawyers with specialisations in warehouse accidents, motorbike accidents, anaesthetic negligence, cosmetic dentistry claims and much, much more. Make sure you choose someone you trust and who is local enough for you to visit, should you need to meet.
3. Not keeping key evidence
One of the most important things you must remember to do after the accident is to gather evidence and keep records safe. Any little detail may help you to prove that someone else was at fault, and make a successful claim later much more likely. Without compelling evidence, on the other hand, your claim has a greater chance of failing.
Take photos and video recordings on your mobile phone. Write down everything that happened, as soon as possible after it happened so it is still clear in your head. What were the weather conditions like? Was is sunny or were there street lights? Any shrubs obscuring your view? Speak to anyone who witnessed the accident as soon as you can, while they still remember every little detail and before they have a chance to change their mind about wanting to help.
4. Underestimating medical evidence
Expert medical evidence is at the heart of every successful personal injury claim. This is what determines the nature and extent of the injuries sustained as a result of an accident, as well as the prognosis for the claimant. If you are tempted to accept a sum of compensation immediately and without medical evidence, you may be making a grave mistake.
Neither is it wise to rely solely on your GP’s assessment, as they may not have the necessary expertise to diagnose complex issues. A whiplash injury resulting from a traffic accident, for instance, might need to be looked at by an orthopaedic surgeon and a consultant neurologist. Mistakes are all too common in medical reports and you are strongly advised to ask for a referral to a consultant.
5. Failing to report all symptoms
It is difficult to make an accurate medical diagnosis without having all the information, however good your doctor may be. If you don’t report all your symptoms, perhaps thinking they’re not important, your medical report won’t document the full extent of your injuries, and your compensation claim may suffer. Volunteer any information that you think may be relevant, even if your doctor doesn’t specifically ask.
Don’t forget that you may also suffer from mental/psychological symptoms, not just physical ones. Do you have trouble sleeping or are you acting strangely? What does your partner think about your behaviour? Are you drinking more or behaving aggressively? You could be suffering from Acute Stress Disorder. Make sure you disclose any change in mood or behaviour to your solicitor or medical expert.
6. Not keeping accurate financial records
While personal injury claims originate out the altered state of your health, the amount of compensation is calculated in hard cash. Here is a useful guide that explains what compensation entails.
The financial losses that you can claim for are wide reaching and go far beyond general damages. Make sure you don’t lose out by keeping all receipts and evidence of expenditure in a safe place. From hospital parking for medical appointments, to takeout food when you are unable to cook, loss of earnings of a family member caring for you or round-the-clock homecare where necessary, there are 101 items that may be claimable.
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