- Should I accept an early offer from an insurance company?
Occasionally, insurance companies will make a settlement offer at an early stage without you having necessarily instructed a solicitor or taken any formal steps to pursue an action. It is obviously beneficial to receive an early pay-out. However, you should however be very wary about accepting that offer without first obtaining legal advice. That offer will be in full and final settlement of your claim so you will not be able to re-visit the settlement if you later have regrets. Often, personal injuries take some time to resolve and they may turn out to be more serious than originally anticipated. We would therefore advise caution in accepting an early settlement offer if your medical advisers have any doubts about your recovery prognosis.
- How long do you have before taking action?
The general rule is that you have two years to bring a claim from the date of knowledge of your claim to avoid your claim becoming statute barred. In most circumstances, the date of knowledge is the date of the accident. There are exceptions, however the sooner you contact a solicitor about a claim, the less chance you have of being statute barred from bringing your claim.
- How do you bring a PIAB claim?
If your personal injury claim is within one of the categories of claim actionable with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (?PIAB?) (which includes most personal injury claims, save for certain exceptions, the main type being when medical negligence is involved), you will have to submit your claim to the PIAB in the first instance. In order to make such a submission, you have to submit a completed PIAB form, a completed medical report, copies of the letters you have sent to the potential respondents you allege are responsible for your injuries and pay the assessment fee of ?45. The PAIB will then either decide to assess your claim or issue you with an authorisation to take court action. PIAB will only agree to assess your claim if the respondent has consented to such an assessment. If PIAB has made an assessment, you are not obligated to accept the amount, however if you do refuse and you subsequently take court action and recover a lower award, there can be cost implications for you.
- Taking court action?
If you have received authorisation from PIAB to take court action, you can commence court proceedings. Your solicitor will prepare the summons with the assistance of a barrister which will then need to be served on the defendant to commence court action.
- How much will it cost to bring a claim?
PIAB will not generally make an award for legal costs, so any legal costs incurred by you will have to be discharged by you directly. If you do take court action and are successful, the court will typically make an award towards your legal costs.
By law, your solicitor must give you information about your legal charges. Solicitors? charges include their fees and any money they pay to another person or an organisation for you. However, often, it can be difficult to calculate the precise costs involved in certain legal work at the outset when it may not be entirely clear how complex and time consuming the work which is required. We aim however to be as transparent and as upfront as possible at the outset on what costs will arise.
- How long will your claim take?
Typically, 9 ? 12 months will pass before PIAB will make an assessment depending on the severity of the injuries.
If your claim goes to court, we can advise you at that time of the expected timelines which will depend on various factors, including the caseload of the courts at that time. The main delaying factor is if your injuries are very serious and complex, which may mean obtaining a prognosis takes much longer and more medical attendants have to be consulted. As noted earlier, you only obtain one chance to obtain a settlement, so if there remains uncertainty about your prognosis, it may not be in your interest to rush to court before your injuries have settled down further.
- What should you bring to your first personal injuries consultation?
Apart from your identification and proof of address documentation, you should bring any receipts you have for costs incurred as a result of your accident. You should continue to keep a record of any receipts for expenses incurred. You should also bring any photographic evidence you might have of the scene of the accident. If your injuries were the result of a car accident, photos of your car are helpful. You should also make a list of any witnesses to the accident and provide their contact details (if available).
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement (save for if in connection with proceedings seeking only to recover a debt or liquidated demand).