In response to one of the most frequently asked questions asked by our clients, Lennons Trainee Solicitor Laxmi Mall explores how long personal injury claims take to settle, and what to expect along the way.
I have represented the interests of various clients who were injured, through little to no fault of their own. If you were injured and believe that you could have a claim against an individual, a local authority or a company, it is natural to wonder how long your claim may take to conclude or settle.
Making a personal injury claim is undoubtedly stressful for all of our claimant clients. It is understandable that most of our clients want their claims to be settled as soon as possible. However, in order for the client to avoid under-settling their claim, we do suggest them to let the claim take its time, as early settlement always bears the risk of under-settling the claim. Once your claim is concluded and an offer is accepted, you will be unable to re-open your case, even if your injuries deteriorate or you require money for any incident-related medical treatments.
When I speak to a new client about their personal injury enquiry, I am frequently asked how long their claim may take. There is no straightforward answer to this question. It all comes down to the Defendant’s attitude towards the accident. Furthermore, the duration of a personal injury claim depends on the type of claim, the value of the claim, the progression of the client’s injuries, the obstacles to obtaining and concluding medical evidence and the Defendant’s cooperation with us.
If you are a prospective client, you may have heard that your neighbour or friend has settled a case in the span of a few months and quickly received the compensation monies owed to them. While it is possible for settlement to be reached that quickly in some straightforward cases, most cases will last much longer than just a few months.
Your claim could arise from an accident at work, a car accident, a bicycle accident, a slipping or tripping incident at a public place or an incident arising out an allegedly faulty product. When you consider the various types of injuries that someone could sustain, you will quickly realise that there are lots of different types of personal injury claims.
When we value a claim, we take into consideration the following:
If your claim is a portal claim, it will be subject to a specific pre-action protocol and it must therefore be submitted to the Defendant via an electronic portal. The portal is designed to streamline the claim process and encourage Defendants to admit liability at an earlier stage of the claim. The procedure is that we submit your claim’s details to the Defendant’s insurer on the portal. Following receipt, the Defendant will have either 15 working days (road traffic accident claims), 30 working days (employer’s liability claims) or 40 working days (public/occupier’s liability claims) to investigate the incident and to confirm if liability is admitted or not. If liability is admitted, your claim will then stay in the electronic portal and we can focus on quantum in order to try and settle your claim (i.e., quantifying and valuing your claim by obtaining the necessary medical evidence and preparing a schedule of loss with your financial losses).
If the Defendant denies liability or requires additional time to investigate, the claim will automatically fall out of the electronic portal. The Defendant will then have a further period of time to investigate the claim, 3 months usually, before confirming the outcome of their further investigations. As you can see, the amount of time your claim will take does depend on the Defendant as well.
The first formal step in your claim is for us to send a Letter of Claim to the Defendant which sets out the background of your case and the allegations we are making as to why the Defendant is responsible for causing your injuries. Following receipt of the Letter of Claim, the Defendant must acknowledge receipt within 21 days. The Defendant then has a further 3 months to investigate liability and to provide its formal Letter of Response.
If the Defendant admits liability for the incident, you will not need to worry about obtaining evidence to prove liability, and so, your claim may proceed to settlement quicker. However, how quickly your claim settles also depends on other third parties, such as how quickly an independent medical expert is able to offer you an appointment and how quick their turnaround time is to produce a medical report. In the medical report, the expert may also not be able to provide a clear prognosis or diagnosis, and in personal injury claims, a confirmed diagnosis is crucial in order to quantify your claim and proceed towards settlement.
If the Defendant denies liability for the incident, we will then carry out a full re-assessment of liability. If we think that your claim has reasonable chances of succeeding, we would instruct a barrister to provide us further advice on liability. If Counsel confirms that your chances of success are below 50%, then, we may conclude, at this stage, that your claim lacks sufficient prospects in order to succeed. If we reach this conclusion, we will notify you of our decision and of our intention to terminate our Conditional Fee Agreement (no-win no-fee agreement) with you. We will not take this decision lightly and only if we have decided that, on the evidence available, you are more likely to lose your claim than win.
If, notwithstanding the Defendant’s denial of liability, we maintain the view that you have more chance of succeeding with your claim than losing, we will continue acting for you and obtain medical evidence on your behalf. If the Defendant continues to deny liability, and we still strongly believe that your claim will succeed, we would be prepared to issue court proceedings for your matter in order to encourage a settlement. Please rest assured that even if we issue court proceedings, a lot of our personal injury claims will be settled before it reaches trial, as it would be contrary to the Defendant’s interests in terms of the costs you will need to incur that they could potentially become liable to pay.
This is an informative guide as to a usual personal injury’s claim procedure, but please note that no two claims are the same. As your lawyers, we will update you at regular intervals with regards to the progress of your claim and any issues that may arise which could mean that your claim will be taking longer than initially anticipated.