If you suffered an injury or illness due to someone else’s negligence, you might want to make a personal injury claim. In every claim, you are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, as well as any past and future financial losses caused by your accident.
You could claim for a wide range of accidents, including road traffic accidents, accidents at work, medical negligence and criminal assaults. If you have valid grounds to pursue compensation, your solicitor will likely offer you a no win no fee service, so you will not lose a single penny if your claim is unsuccessful.
If you are unsure how the claiming process works, this is further explained in detail below. While it might seem intimidating at first, your solicitor will provide advice and support at every stage of the claim. They will handle all the legal and complex issues that may arise while you can focus on your recovery.
If you are ready to start your claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser. Otherwise, you can read this guide to learn more about the personal injury claims process.
What is the personal injury claims process?
If you are thinking about making a personal injury claim, you might want to know more about the claims process before speaking to a solicitor. Each personal injury claim is different, but they all follow the same basic steps:
1) Discuss your claim during a free claim assessment
If you suffered an injury in an accident that was not your fault, you might want to know if you have valid grounds to make a claim. You can find out by entering your details into our online claim form or calling 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
As a first step in the personal injury claims process, they will ask you several questions about your circumstances to determine whether you can claim and your chances of success. Examples of the questions you could be asked include:
- Who do you believe was at fault for your injuries?
- Did someone else see the accident happen?
- Did you seek medical assistance for your injuries?
- How long ago did the incident take place?
- Did you report the accident to the police?
During your free consultation, you might also have some questions for the solicitor, such as:
- How much compensation will I receive?
- How long will it take to settle my claim?
- Why should I hire a personal injury solicitor?
- What is your success rate?
- Will I be offered a no win no fee service?
- How much will it cost to make a claim?
While it is difficult to know from the beginning how much your claim is worth or how long the claims process will take, your legal adviser will explain everything you need to know to start legal proceedings.
2) Appoint your no win no fee injury solicitor
If you are eligible for compensation and decide to proceed with the claims process, you will be paired with a solicitor that is right for your case. They usually work on a conditional fee agreement (the technical term for no win no fee), meaning that you do not have to pay any upfront solicitor fees, and you pay nothing if your claim is unsuccessful.
Once you have instructed your solicitor, they will determine who is responsible for your injury or illness. Based on the circumstances of your accident, your claim could be against:
- A driver, cyclist, or another road user – road accident claims
- Your employer – work and industrial accident claims
- The NHS – medical negligence claims
- The local council – pavement accident claims
- A business owner – accidents in public
- A product manufacturer – product liability claims
- The Ministry of Defence – military injury claims
It is not always evident who you will be claiming against. For example, if you had a workplace accident involving faulty machinery, the liable party could be the product manufacturer and not your employer. However, you don’t need to worry about this, as this will be taken care of by your solicitor.
3) Gather evidence to build a strong case
After assessing liability, your solicitor will gather all the evidence you need to make a successful claim. You can help your case by providing any of the following:
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Pictures of any damage to your property
- The names and contact details of anyone involved in the accident, including witnesses
- Your notes about when, where and how the accident happened and how it affected your life
- The license plate and insurance details of any drivers involved in a road traffic accident.
- Police or emergency service reports
- An accident report, if you were injured at work or in a public place
- Details of any financial losses and expenses you incurred because of the accident, such as loss of wages
Your solicitor may also be able to secure the footage from any CCTV cameras that captured the accident. If required, they will contact any witnesses and ask them for a statement to support your claim.
Do not worry if you have little evidence or are claiming on behalf of someone else without knowing all the details. Your solicitor will investigate on your behalf and gather everything you need to build a strong claim.
4) Medical assessment of your injuries
An essential step in the personal injury claims process is the medical assessment of your injury or illness. If you visited your GP or hospital, your solicitor will be able to access your medical records once you complete a form to enable them to do so.
If you have photos of any visible injuries such as bruises, cuts, lacerations or broken bones, these may also help your claim. Your solicitor may also arrange an expert medical assessment of your injuries with a qualified medical professional who will:
- Assess the nature and the full extent of your injuries
- Recommend any further treatments you may need to undergo
- Confirm the cause of your injuries
- Consider the impact of your injuries on your daily life
- Suggest any house or vehicle adaptations you may need to accommodate your disability
- Consider the accident’s impact on your mental health
- Determine how long your injuries may take to heal
- Assess the long-term or permanent effects of your injuries
The medical specialist will produce a detailed medical report that your solicitor will use to calculate how much compensation you should receive. The defendant may also request that their medical expert also assess your injuries.
5) Submit your injury claim to the defendant
After collecting all of the accident and injury details, your solicitor will send a claim notification form (CNF) to the defendant, notifying them of your intentions to sue for damages. As a general rule, you must start the formal injury claims process within three years after your accident.
The CNF details what happened and why you think the other side is liable for your accident. The defendant has 21 days to acknowledge your claim and another three months to conduct their own investigations about the accident. Before the end of this period, they must inform your solicitor whether they accept or deny responsibility for your injuries.
6) Negotiate your compensation award
Once you have all the evidence you need, your solicitor will work out how much compensation you are entitled to by taking into account:
- The physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries
- Psychological trauma and emotional distress
- Travel costs to and from medical appointments
- The cost of medical treatments, rehabilitation and therapy
- Lost wages, including future losses if you cannot return to work or must take a lower-paying job
- The need for adaptive equipment such as hearing aids, prosthetics or mobility aids
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle
- Personal property damaged in the accident
- The cost of care and assistance with daily tasks, even if provided by a family member
- Any other personal and financial losses related to the accident, both past and future
Assuming the defendant has admitted liability, you can begin to negotiate a settlement. Usually, both parties will make multiple offers until you can agree on a compensation award that is acceptable to everybody.
7) Reach a settlement
Ideally, both parties will want to reach an out-of-court settlement, as it offers several advantages, including:
- It is far less expensive than going to court
- It saves both parties a lot of time, as going to trial can take significantly longer
- Unlike trials, settlement negotiations are not public records
- The two parties have complete control over the outcome of the claim
- Unlike a court decision, a settlement cannot be appealed
Your solicitor will conduct negotiations on your behalf, according to your instructions. Once you have agreed to accept a settlement, you cannot claim further compensation later, even if your symptoms get much worse or you get later diagnosed with an additional health condition. If you have ongoing symptoms, your solicitor will advise you on the best course of action.
If the defendant denies liability for your accident or you cannot reach a settlement, your solicitor will take the case to court. A judge will examine the available evidence, listen to witnesses and experts and decide how much compensation you should receive if your case is successful.
8) You receive your compensation payment
The final step in the personal injury claims process is getting your compensation. After you have accepted a settlement offer or the court has reached a decision, you should receive the money within four weeks. Usually, you will get the compensation as a lump sum payment minus:
- Any interim payments that you already received
- A success fee that is paid to your solicitor for winning compensation
- The cost of the After the Event insurance policy
- Some basic legal fees that cannot be recovered from the other side
In some cases, for example, if your compensation covers long-term care costs, the judge may order that you get monthly or yearly instalments, known as periodical payments.
With some exceptions, the compensation will be paid directly to you or a personal injury trust in your name. However, in child injury claims, the compensation award will be transferred into a court bank account and released to the child once they turn 18.
Frequently asked questions about the claims process
Below you can find more information about the most common questions claimants have regarding the claims process.
What is the difference between fast track and multi-track claims?
You may have heard people referring to ‘tracks’ when talking about personal injury claims. If your case needs to go to trial, it will be allocated to a particular track based on the value of your claim and how long a hearing might take. For example:
- If your claim is worth under £25,000 and the trial will take one day, it belongs to the fast track
- If your claim is worth under £25,000 but is more complex and a trial hearing will take more than one day, it will be allocated to the multi-track
- If the value of your claim is over £25,000, it will be allotted to the multi-track
Fast track claims
Most personal injury claims are processed through the fast track protocol. This covers injuries that have significantly impacted the victim’s life but did not result in substantial long-term or permanent complications.
Fast track claims are usually straightforward and reach trial within less than 30 weeks after issuing court proceedings. During this period, you will exchange evidence with the defendant, and you could still work out a pre-trial settlement.
The multi-track protocol gives the parties involved more time to negotiate a settlement, is more flexible and has fewer deadlines, which gives both parties more time to discuss the claim and negotiate compensation.
Before the final trial, which may last up to five days, the court will hold an informal meeting where the judge meets with everyone involved in the claims process to discuss the progress and decide how to move forward. Multi-track claims are more complex, and it could take between 1 and 2 years to reach a hearing.
Will I have to go to court?
While it is hard to predict the claims process, it is very unlikely that you will have to go to court. According to the Ministry of Justice, only 3.5% of all claims made between January and March 2021 went to trial.
One of the reasons behind this low percentage is that solicitors only accept no win no fee claims if they believe you have a fair chance of success. If you build a strong case, the defendant is more likely to admit liability and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Some circumstances in which a personal injury claim might go to court include:
- Complex claims for brain or spine injuries that have caused significant permanent symptoms.
- If the victim is a child, the protocol states that you have to go through an Infant Approval Hearing so that a judge reviews all the evidence to decide if they received a fair settlement.
- The defendant denies liability for your injuries, or you cannot settle.
- You want to apply for interim payments to cover pressing financial needs.
If your case goes to court, your solicitor will make sure you always know what to expect and will provide support and advice at every step of the personal injury claims process.
How can I speed up the personal injury claims process?
A personal injury claim can be stressful and demanding. There are several things you could do to speed up the claims process and receive your compensation payment as soon as possible, including:
- Contact a no win no fee solicitor as soon as possible after your accident. It will be easier and faster for them to speak to witnesses and secure CCTV footage and other evidence while the events are still fresh.
- Document everything in as much detail as possible from day one, such as photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, a detailed record of your expenses and contact details of witnesses. Your solicitor will need this evidence later, and having it ready can save you a lot of time.
- If you decide to pursue compensation, complete the required forms and sign documents without delay. These include the instruction form, the conditional fee agreement and a form permitting them to access your medical records. The sooner you return these, the sooner they can begin working on your claim.
- Ask your solicitor to arrange an appointment for a medical assessment as soon as possible.
- If you are in a hurry, you may want to accept an early-stage offer instead of fighting for a higher compensation award. Many insurance companies use this strategy in the hope that you will settle quickly, but it is not usually advised to accept it. This is because the amount you are offered is often much lower than what you should be entitled to.
There isn’t much else you could do to speed up the personal injury claim process. Most of the time, this may not be in your best interest either. If you suffer immediate financial difficulties, you may instead be able to apply for interim payments in advance of your final settlement.
Can I receive interim payments before my claim is finalised?
Personal injury claims can take months or years to conclude. During this time, you may not be able to return to work and might have immediate financial needs.
An interim payment is a sum of money that could be advanced to you from the final compensation award if you meet the following criteria:
- The other party admits liability for your accident
- They are likely to be found liable for your injuries if the case goes to trial
- You have a good reason for requesting the payment, such as urgent medical bills
- Your request is for a reasonable amount that is less than your total compensation
The amount you can request as interim payments depends on your circumstances and the severity of your injuries. You are more likely to receive an interim payment if you can show that you need the money for:
- Specialist care or medical therapies
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability
- Aids and equipment such as a wheelchair or hearing aid
- Paying your bills, mortgage or other living costs
Any amount you receive as an interim payment will be deducted from the final compensation award at the end of the claims process.
When will I receive my compensation?
How long it will take to receive your compensation payment depends mostly on how long the claims process will last. Once your claim has settled, you should receive the money soon after you accept the final settlement.
Usually, if you have settled out of court, you should receive the payment within 14 days, but it may take longer if the defendant is slow to pay.
If you had to take your claim to trial, the judge will decide when you should receive the compensation. This is typically within 21 days of the date of the court order, and if you do not receive the payment within the time limit, your solicitor can take further legal action.
However, there are some circumstances where you will not receive the compensation award once the claim settles. For example, if you won compensation on behalf of a child, the court will hold the money in a court bank account until the victim turns 18. At this point, the money plus any interest will be released to them by cheque.
Your solicitor could also help you set up a personal injury trust for your child. This ensures that the money will be ring-fenced, and the compensation will not be taken into account for means-tested benefits. Once they turn 18, the child can access all of the capital in the trust at any time.
Occasionally, if the compensation is not significant and all parties agree to it, the compensation award could be released to the parents or a legal guardian.
How long does a personal injury claim usually take?
The time it takes to receive compensation in a personal injury claim can vary significantly, depending on:
- The type of accident that led to your claim. For example, a road accident claim will usually settle within 6 to 9 months, while a complex claim for medical negligence could last 4 to 5 years.
- The type and extent of your injuries. If you suffered a severe injury and have ongoing symptoms, assessing the full extent of any long-term or permanent effects may take years. Thus, a hand injury claim will usually settle faster than a brain injury claim.
- The time needed to gather evidence. If you speak to a legal adviser as early as you can and document your accident from day one, you may be able to start the claims process right away. Otherwise, it may take several months for your solicitor to gather everything you need to build a strong case.
- Whether the defendant admits liability. If the other side agrees they are responsible for your injuries, you can get straight to negotiating a settlement. Otherwise, you may have to argue your case in court, which would take significantly longer.
- Whether you know the defendant’s identity. If it is unclear who was responsible for your injury, such as if you were involved in a hit-and-run accident or you may be partially responsible for the extent of your injuries, your claim will usually take longer to conclude.
These and many other factors could affect how long your personal injury claim will last. There are several things you could do to speed up the claims process, some of which are listed above.
What happens if I lose my personal injury claim?
If you claim compensation for a personal injury on a no win no fee basis, you will not lose a single penny if your case is unsuccessful. At the beginning of the claims process, you will sign a conditional fee agreement with your solicitor, which states that:
- You do not have to pay them any upfront fees
- If you lose the case, you do not have to pay them a single penny
- They receive a percentage of up to 25% of your compensation award as a success fee
As a standard part of any no win o fee claim, your solicitor will also take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf. If you lose the claim, the ATE insurance provides full financial coverage for all the legal expenses and disbursements incurred, such as:
- The defendant’s solicitor fees
- Any fees requested by the court
- Medical and police reports
- Expert witness fees
- Barrister and counsel’s fees
- Travel expenses
There are no financial risks involved in making a no win no fee claim, and you will not incur any out-of-pocket expenses if you lose the case. Furthermore, your solicitor will deal with most of the work involved in the claims process so you can focus on your recovery.
Should I accept an early offer from the other side?
Most personal injury claims are made against the defendant’s insurance company, whether you were involved in a road traffic accident, accident at work or a slip, trip and fall in a public place.
Insurance companies will try to prove that the defendant was not liable for your injuries. When there is no liability dispute, they will employ precise tactics to try and pay you the least amount of compensation possible. These include making pre-medical and early offers hoping that you will settle quickly.
If you want the claims process to end quickly, you might weigh up the benefit of accepting an early, lower settlement. However, negotiating a settlement or going to court could substantially increase your compensation award.
Based on your circumstances, your solicitor will be able to advise you on whether to take an early offer or fight for a more substantial settlement. Nonetheless, a reliable rule of thumb is not to accept an early settlement.
To find out if you have a valid claim or learn more about the personal injury claims process, call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. Or, if you prefer, enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.