Personal injuries, however caused, are by their very nature unexpected. Of course the most important thing to do in the first instance is to make sure you seek out appropriate medical help and treatment. But where you need to seek recompense for the loss you suffer as a result of the personal injury, what are the steps you need to take? The answer to this question depends on the type of injury but also the circumstances in which it arose.
Personal injuries caused by a tripping accident
You will need to take photographs if possible as near to the time the incident took place of where it happened and, if there is something damaged or not repaired which you think should have been, to take photos of that. If there is a hole in the pavement for example you could use a small ruler to show the scale in the photograph.
Gather up details of the owner of the premises in which the accident happened. This might be a shop, a business or an employer.
You should make sure you have your paperwork showing your employment status or if self-employed evidence of your income so that you can begin to formulate what your loss might be. This should include employer's name , employer’s address, occupation job title, place of employment and when you started the job, gross salary, basic salary, over time, net take home and National Insurance number.
Whilst everything is fresh in your memory you should write down as much you can remember about the circumstances of the accident.
Once you go to a GP or other medical practitioner they will usually take a note of when you presented to them, what your symptoms were and any prognosis which you may need to get an expert medical report at some stage also. You should also keep receipts of any losses incidental to the accident or your treatment. For example this could be taxi receipts or bus or train travel to and from hospital.
You should approach a Solicitor who specialises in personal injury claims, and for a lot of personal injury claims you may be offered a conditional fee agreement ("no win no fee") which can help you fund your case through to a conclusion.
You should not leave it too late to approach Solicitors and pursue your claim and there is a strict 3 year time limit for most personal injury claims.
Personal injury arising from a defect on a highway
For these cases you should take measurements of the size of defect (depth, length and width in centimetres) and ideally photographic evidence.
You should write a description of the defect which can help show whether it was in need of repair.
You should consider was there any warning of the defect for example road signs? Or was the area fenced off?
This might require some additional investigation by a Solicitor but you may need to know how long the defect had been present. It would be good if you can provide any witnesses who can attest to the defect and how long it had been present.
You need to locate who is the local authority or individual who is responsible for the highway. Again Solicitors can help with this.
You will need your name and address of the GP and hospital where you were treated.
Try to think of other miscellaneous losses including clothing lost in the accident, prescription charges, cost of any home help in addition to transport or other losses.
What about the personal injuries to children (under 18)?
Personal injuries suffered by children can still be pursued but they will need a "litigation friend" which is a suitable adult who can pursue the matter on their behalf. A litigation friend will need to provide a certificate confirming they are suitable and happy to act for the child and any claims brought in their name on behalf of the child.
If a settlement is reached between the person at fault and the litigation friend Court approval will be required and this will involve obtaining a confidential opinion from a specialist barrister as to the appropriateness of the settlement which will help the Court to determine whether the settlement should be approved or not.
What about occupiers liability claims?
In certain circumstances owners of a property owe a duty of care to those working or visiting the property. You should speak to a Solicitor as to whether a personal injury can be claimed on the basis of occupiers liability.
You will need records of when the accident was reported and to whom it was reported. As with other cases you will need to locate any witnesses who can attest to what happened.
Consider whether there is any CCTV footage.
Were there any warning signs in place?
Make a note as soon as possible as to the circumstances and what you think caused the accident and why you say it was the owner or occupier's fault.
As with other cases remember to get photographs of the area if you can.
Personal injuries arising from an assault
Much of the above would apply to cases where you have suffered a personal injury due to an assault. The additional things to consider are any records of the assault reported to the police including a crime reference number
Do you have details of any criminal proceedings ongoing or if the outcome is known was there a conviction?
In some circumstances evidence from a criminal trial can be provided to a victim for the purposes of a civil case (which usually takes place in the County Court whereas criminal proceedings would be in the Magistrates or Crown Court)
This blog was prepared by Richard Harriman and Toby Walker, Partners in the Dispute Resolution Team at Allan Janes. Allan Janes has a proven track record of dealing with all kinds of personal injury cases and are able to offer conditional fee agreements in appropriate cases. If you would like to discuss a personal injury claim do not hesitate to contact Richard Harriman on 01494 521301.