If you’ve been injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you can start a claim as soon as you want. So long as you don’t wait more than the legal time limit for claiming compensation – usually three years – you can make your claim whenever you want.
Rather than a single accident, you may instead be suffering symptoms caused by exposure to a substance or from repetitive actions over a period time. If this reflects what you’re experiencing, you claim as soon as you decide you’re ready.
That said, it’s best not to wait too long because of the risk that evidence may become more difficult to obtain; witnesses may be less ease to contact; and memories of what happened can become less clear as time passed.
Even if you’ve suffered significant injuries and are facing a long road to recovery, it’s best to discuss your claim with experienced lawyers as early as possible.
It’s not uncommon for an injured person to think they’re probably to blame in some way for what’s happened. But even if you’re convinced you were responsible, at least in part, you may be relieved to find out you’re not to blame. Importantly, specialist personal injury lawyers can talk you through the accident and give you some reassurance.
And even if you were partly responsible – the good news is you can still claim compensation. It simply means any payout you are entitled to will be reduced to reflect the element of responsibility on your part.
The simple answer is: an injured person can claim for any physical injury, condition or illness that has been caused by someone else. You can also claim for psychological, mental and/or emotional harm – whether or not there are any actual physical injuries.
It’s also reassuring to know that you could even claim personal injury compensation and fatal accident compensation if a loved one has died because of the actions or failings of someone else.
Physical injuries caused accidentally can be mild and heal quickly. On the other hand, they can amount to life-threatening multiple injuries – or anywhere in-between. Trauma to the body can result in physical injuries ranging from cuts and bruises and soft tissue injuries to broken bones and internal injuries.
Understandably, the amount of personal injury compensation the victim deserves will reflect the seriousness of the particular injury. Below are some of the most common types of physical injury, along with examples of the maximum amount available in the most serious, life-changing cases:
A traumatic head injury is usually caused by a blow to the head. While many head injuries are minor and may cause nothing worse than a scratch and perhaps symptoms of minor concussion – the force to the head may be severe enough to cause significant injury. Serious head injuries can cause open head injuries, loss of consciousness and bleeds on the brain. A brain injury can also happen in other ways, eg as a result of medical negligence. The worst head injuries that cause long term brain damage and disability can attract compensation awards of up to £403,990.
Few people are lucky enough to get through life without breaking a bone. Often, a fracture is just ‘one of those things’ – but if it’s non-accidental and someone else caused it, they should be held responsible.
A fracture is typically caused by trauma, eg a fall or a blow to part of the body. Simple minor fractures to a wrist, lower leg or finger may cause minor disruption and usually heal quickly; while serious fractures can have a significant impact on your life and take at least several months to heal.
An individual who suffers a fractured jaw leaving permanent residual problems can receive up to £45,540 in compensation; while the most serious compound arm fracture could attract up to £130,930.
As its name suggests, soft tissue injuries are injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. These injuries are typically caused by strains and sprains and cause symptoms ranging from pain and swelling, to bruising and immobility.
You might think these types of injury are less serious than bone fractures, but that’s usually not the case. Soft tissue injuries can be extremely painful and debilitating, and can take months and sometimes up to two years or more to heal.
In the worst cases, surgery can become necessary. In a successful personal injury claim, the level of compensation will recognise the extent of injury and its consequences. For example, serious soft tissue back injuries could attract damages of up to £148,330 and serious knee injuries could be compensated to the tune of up to £96,210.
An amputation – the actual loss of part of the body – is particularly distressing, particularly if it’s a traumatic injury caused by, eg a car accident, in a war zone or a limb was severed in an accident at work.
Amputations can also be the result of medical negligence (usually ‘wrong limb’ amputation). A planned ‘surgical’ amputation can be necessary where the limb is beyond saving because of gangrene, cancer or traumatic injury to the limb.
Amputation of part of the ear or a finger will not be considered as serious as the loss of a limb. Amputation of one hand, for example, could be compensated up to £109,650 and a lower leg – up to £137,470
Scarring may be considered minor and leave no physical symptoms, but its presence can still cause distress to the individual – especially if it’s visible. A scar is a patch of fibrous tissue left after a traumatic injury, such as a burn, cut or chemical injury has healed.
Scars usually fade over time but may never completely disappear. An unsightly and visible scar can have a significant impact on someone’s life – a reality the law recognises. Significant and permanent facial scarring could be compensated by up to £97,330.
Injuries to the internal organs are often serious and potentially fatal if not recognised and treated promptly. A blow to the body may leave little if any visible injury but can cause significant internal injury, such as a tear to the liver, damaged spleen or a punctured lung.
Examples of compensation are: in the most serious cases of bowel injury – up to £184,200; and hernia injuries – up to £24,170.
The causes of physical conditions and illnesses are many: unsafe working conditions; environmental factors such as leakages of toxic chemicals and gases into the air; river sewage and water pollution; and exposure to radiation.
The law recognises that if you’re suffering the physical effects of an unsafe environment, those responsible should pay compensation to reflect the harm caused.
Below are the most common illnesses and occupational diseases and conditions, along with examples of the maximum compensation payable in the most serious cases:
These illnesses can be caused by exposure to unsafe working conditions or hazardous materials, gases and toxins in the environment at large. It can be many years before the victim begins to experience symptoms but a compensation claim could still be made (don’t be deterred by the length of time that has passed).
Sadly, these conditions often prove fatal. Compensation could be as much as £84,000 for lung cancer; £99,330 for asbestosis; and £118,150 for mesothelioma.
These are two of the main occupational conditions often caused by repetitive use of vibrating tools, computer key boards, repetitive delicate work and frequent heavy or awkward lifting. The individual may experience increasing levels of pain, nerve damage, numbness and lack of mobility and the damage can be permanent.
For example, the most serious cases of VWF can attract compensation of up to £38,430; and to £23,130 for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Asthma and other milder lung conditions can often be caused by an unsafe working environment. While some asthma suffers are able to manage their condition with medication, others may experience significant difficulties with their normal daily activities and may even be unable to work.
The most serious cases of asthma caused by an unsafe environment may attract compensation of up to £65,740.
It’s an unfortunate reality that food poisoning is a risk we all face. Most of us experience this unpleasant experience at some point in our lives, but if it’s fairly clear that someone else caused it because insufficient care was taken by a restaurant, café, hotel or eg. the kitchen staff on a cruise ship – they should be held responsible.
The fact is, serious cases of food poisoning can leave an unwelcome legacy of gastrointestinal problems that may never completely go away. Those liable for serious cases of food poisoning may have to pay compensation of up to £52,500 to reflect the harm suffered.
Every one of us is at risk of suffering psychological harm, whether or not someone else is to blame. Unfortunately, mental and emotional harm can be caused by others – either on its own or in addition to physical injuries.
The law recognises the reality of injuries to mental and emotional health. This means that if it can be proved that the accident caused – or even exasperated – your mental health, the person responsible is liable to pay compensation.
These are examples of common injuries to mental and emotional health and the maximum compensation payable in the most serious cases (where a recognised condition is diagnoses):
In recent years, the rights of individuals in the home are increasingly recognised and society no longer tolerates domestic abuse. The law has recently been modernised to reflect that reality that there are men, women and children who are domestic abuse victims and need protecting.
Even in the absence of physical injury, abuse victims may be entitled to claim criminal injury compensation for the mental and emotional harm suffered.
PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder typically resulting from exposure to a traumatic incident or several distressing events. It may or may not be accompanied by physical injuries.
PTSD can be devastating for the individual concerned and impact virtually every part of their life. Compensation for PTSD could be as much as £100,670.
An individual suffering with severe anxiety but which falls short of PTSD could be entitled to up to £403,990
Not everyone is aware that close family members, such as the surviving spouse or civil partner and the deceased’s children, are entitled to make a claim where their loved one has died as a result of an accident that was not their fault.
In these cases, it may be possible to claim personal injury compensation as well as fatal accident compensation, depending on the specific circumstances.
Fatal accident compensation claims can be taken on a no win no fee basis in the same way as other personal injury claims.
The bottom line is: any accident that was caused by someone else and directly leads to injury or illness could prompt a personal injury compensation claim. This reflects the fundamental legal principle that if a person or organisation owes a duty of care to others to minimise the risk of harm, and they breach their duty, the law holds them responsible for the harms caused.
Accidents happen in any walk of life that you can think of. Perhaps surprisingly, even accidents in your own home may be due to the negligence of someone else. Examples of where accidents happen include:
The risk of an RTA arise whenever a road user (usually a vehicle driver) takes insufficient care on the road. However, every driver owes a duty of care to other road users and if they breach that duty an accident may happen. The outcome could potentially be fatal injuries.
In the year to June 2022, there were 29,804 people reported to have been killed and seriously injured on the roads in Great Britain (gov.uk).
If you use a defective product, such as an electrical item that has been poorly wired; or a product has an inherent fault, it could lead to injury. A product can even be considered ‘defective’ if instructions for use are inadequate or missing, and someone is hurt as a result of using it in the wrong way.
Sadly common but usually avoidable, accidents at work happen every day. They typically occur because of a breach of health and safety legislation and employers can be held responsible if injuries are caused.
Serious workplace accidents are more likely where heavy manual work is involved, for instance, construction sites, factories and in farming and agriculture.
Damien had not been properly trained for the job he was doing. His compensation award included the costs of several prosthetic limbs, including a running blade to enable him to continue running.
Medical (or clinical) negligence can be particularly devasting because it occurs in circumstance where we are at our most vulnerable; and we are in one of the safest environments we can think of.
By their very nature, doctors and other healthcare professionals are held to a high professional standard of care. While a mistake can never be ruled out, patients are entitled to have the risks of a procedure or treatment explained so that they can make an informed decision. If that doesn’t happen and they suffer as a result, a claim can ensue.
Doctors sometimes make errors that should not have happened. For example, giving a wrong diagnosis or providing poor treatment; failing to refer for tests; carelessness during surgery; and even operating on the wrong part of the body.
The outcome of medical negligence can be disastrous and the patient has the right to claim medical negligence compensation.
He was operated on but suffered a stroke during the procedure, and later suffered a cardiac arrest. He was left with catastrophic injuries and lives in a nursing home.
Anyone who serves in the armed forces accepts the obvious risks of, eg being on operational duty – but their employers still have a duty of care towards military personnel. The training and equipment provided must be adequate; appropriate supervision should be in place; and military equipment must be properly maintained.
Failings on the part of the military which result directly in personal injury, whether that’s traumatic injury caused by inadequate body armour or noise-induced hearing loss, could lead to a claim.
Anyone going out and about – whether to the supermarket or to their local leisure centre; or simply for a stroll in the park – should be able to expect to be safe from injury.
Unfortunately, accidents can happen in public spaces when we’re least expecting: tripping over hazards; slipping on spilt liquids; falling branches or flying objects can hit someone; play equipment can break; and so on.
If reasonable care has not been taken by the person or organisation responsible for the premises or public space where the accident happened, they could be held liable for any injuries caused.
Driving or cycling over an unexpected pot hole, for instance, has cost local authorities substantial sums of money in personal injury payouts.
In the 4 years to 2021, 157 councils in England and Wales paid out a total of more than £32 million in pothole compensation. Almost 5,600 claims for pothole-related injuries were made.
Travelling on public transport, such as trains and trams, is usually significantly safer than jumping in your car – even if it is expensive. But if the train operator/carrier fails in its legal duty, the cost of convenience could be physical injuries when you’re least expecting them.
For example, a station operator may fail to grit an icy platform or clear snow and a passenger slips on the train platform; or a passenger seat is old and needs maintenance and repair – and it collapses when a passenger sits down.
Serious injuries can also be caused if a train or tram, driver speeds round a curved piece of track or a human error leads to a devastating collision. Injured passengers can make compensation claims for what they’ve suffered.
We live, work and take holidays in a global society, so when accidents happen abroad it can be more challenging to know how to respond if we’re injured.
Thankfully, if you’ve suffered injuries following an incident abroad through no fault of your own, specialist solicitors will identify who should be held responsible for what’s happened.
To start with, talk to trained legal advisors about what has happened to you. Assuming you have a case, they will put you in touch with dedicated personal injury lawyers who can start the legal process for you.
The claims process varies depending on the nature of the injuries and the value of the individual’s claim. That said, there are key steps that virtually every injury claim will follow.
The first worry any injured person has might be: how much will making a claim cost me in legal fees? Fortunately, you don’t need to worry because your solicitor will take your claim on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.
This means you will not have to pay any legal fees or costs if your claim is unsuccessful. And if you win compensation, you will pay a small proportion of it to your solicitors to cover your legal fees.
No win no fee basically removes the financial risk to you in making a personal injury claim when you’ve been injured through no fault of your own. So if your claim fails, you won’t be out of pocket as you won’t have to pay any solicitors’ fees. It gives you the freedom to make the claim you deserve without the worry of how you will pay for your solicitor if you don’t win.
At the start of the claim, you will agree the terms of a Conditional Fee Agreement with your solicitor. Under this agreement, your solicitor will be paid a ‘success fee’ out of your compensation payout (never more than 25%) and you will keep the balance.
Every personal injury claim is different. While one person’s claim can be settled within months – someone else’s claim may take three years, or even longer, if it goes to a final court hearing.
So, how long your claim may take will depend on several factors including the nature of the accident; the extent of your injuries and your recovery; whether the other side accept responsibility; and whether court action is necessary.
Your solicitor will work hard to prove your case with the aim of bringing your claim to a satisfactory settlement early as they can.
Yes, you will almost certainly need to see an expert medical witness for the purposes of a medical report. This report will be vital evidence to support your claim. The medical expert will discuss your injuries and recovery with you, examine you and then write a formal report on your injuries and any further treatment required.
Your solicitor will arrange this for you and the cost will be covered by your conditional fee agreement. Further reports may be necessary, for instance if you’re claiming for psychological as well as physical injuries.
This depends on the nature of your injuries and how long it takes for you to recover. An individual who suffers relatively minor injuries will win a lesser sum in compensation that an injured person left with long-term symptoms or permanent disabilities.
To assess the value of your claim, your solicitor will ask for detailed information from you about your injuries and the full impact on you, your financial situation and your family and social life. They will also need to arrange the expert medical examination to prove the extent of your injuries.
Once they have all the information, they will be in a position to calculate how much compensation you deserve.
Injuries vary significantly in nature and extent. Assessing a fair level of compensation can be challenging, however lawyers are able to consult formal judicial guidance on personal injury compensation. The Judicial College Guidelines (currently in their 16th edition) are regularly updated to reflect recent court judgments.
The guidance indicates the level of compensation appropriate for a particular type of injury, depending on its seriousness and whether long term damage has been caused. Calculating compensation for multiple (ie at least two) injuries is more challenging.
Your solicitor will discuss with you how compensation will be calculated in your case.
As you can imagine, accidents happen in all walks of life: at home and at work; on road and railways; shops and supermarkets; and out in the open air. The reality is, simple accidents do occur and no one is to blame.
However, more often than not, avoidable accidents happen and cause injury because someone else has been careless or negligent. These are the most common types of accident:
Road traffic accidents – All vehicle drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers and road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Road traffic accidents are one of the most common types of accident and invariably happen because of a driver’s carelessness.
Accidents at work – The workplace can be a risky environment for employees. Employers who are negligent and breach strict health and safety rules expose workers to the risk of accident and physical harm. Injuries at work nearly always follow a breach of safety rules on the employer’s part.
Clinical (medical) negligence – A patient who undergoes substandard treatment from a doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional and suffers harm can make an injury claim. Patients may also have a claim if they have been misdiagnosed, or were harmed by a delayed diagnosis.
Occupiers liability – A person injured in an accident on someone else’s property – public or private – might have a claim under occupiers’ liability laws. Occupiers, eg the property owner, have a duty to ensure their property is reasonably safe from dangers to visitors – or risk an accident claim.
Defective product claims – Defective goods, such as an electrical appliance or hair dies, can cause injuries to the unsuspecting. The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows the injured person to make a claim against the manufacturer without even having to prove negligence.
Public liability – A ‘walk in the park’ might turn out to be anything but that. Accidents that happen in a public space, such as a council-run park, in the street, a nature reserve or supermarket may result from health and safety breaches. Those responsible for this space can be held liable for resulting injuries.
Claims for psychological harm – Whether or not an individual has visible physical injuries – they could still claim for psychological harm caused by someone else’s wrongdoing. These types of claim can follow sexual and other abuse, as well as injury claims that include a claim for psychological or mental harm.
Criminal injuries – Anyone who’s the innocent victim of a violent crime may be eligible to claim criminal injuries compensation from a dedicated government-run scheme. The incident must be reported to the police as soon as possible otherwise you may lose the chance to claim compensation.
The general rule is that the injured person must start legal proceedings within three years of the date of the accident; or within three years of the date they knew they had a significant injury and it was someone else’s fault. Beyond three years and your claim could be time-barred.
As with all rules, there are exceptions:
While these are time limits, it’s best to discuss your specific claim with a trained legal adviser while events are still fresh in your mind.
Yes, it is possible to be appointed ‘litigation friend’ which will allow you to claim compensation on behalf of a child, or a loved one who cannot make the claim for themselves. That might be because they have been seriously injured in an accident and do not have the mental capacity to conduct their claim personally.
Probably not. The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled outside of the courtroom. Where fault is admitted, compensation can be agreed early on without proceedings even being issued. In some cases, proceedings may be well underway before the lawyers reach a fair settlement – but a final hearing will be avoided.
However, if a final hearing became necessary, your solicitor will prepare you fully so that you’ll know what to expect.
This is a common concern for an injured person considering a legal claim. There may be a fear of a backlash at work or the worry that someone ordered to pay injury compensation will be badly impacted financially.
However, in reality most injury claims are brought against an insurance company, eg the vehicle driver’s insurer or the employer’s insurer. In a successful claim, compensation is paid out by the insurer and not the individual/business concerned.
As for fears of being poorly treated for making a claim, employers have a legal duty to protect you from being unfairly dismissed or treated differently to colleagues. If you believe you’re being harassed or badly treated because you’ve made an injury claim, speak to your solicitor who can take steps to protect you.
Personal injury compensation claims are not simply about compensation for physical injuries. You’re likely to have had time off work to recover; clothing and property may have been damaged; you may be facing further treatment; and home adaptations and therapy may be needed.
The law recognises that individuals injured through no fault of their own should have their financial losses effectively refunded as part of their claim. ‘Special damages’ (as this is called) is wide-ranging and can even compensate you if your professional career or hobby has been cut short as a direct result of the accident.
Whiplash is an injury for which anyone should be compensated if someone else caused it. However, the law recently changed making it less easy to claim for simple whiplash in a road accident.
A whiplash claim is classed as a low value claim and (if defended) is dealt with in the small claims ‘track’. The problem for the injured person is that their legal costs will not be refunded by the other side, often making it financially unviable to make a claim.
A fixed tariff also applies, with compensation as low as £240 for the mildest cases. Even if your whiplash symptoms continue for up to a year, the amount is currently capped at £1,390.
If you use solicitors to conduct your claim, there may be little left once their legal costs are deducted – not to mention the cost an expert medical report that you will need.
Where responsibility for the accident is denied, your lawyer will most likely issue legal proceedings. The judge will allocate your claim to the appropriate ‘track’ to ensure it is dealt with efficiently. Allocation depends on the value and complexity of the claim.
Small claims track – Claims up to £1,500 for accidents since 6 April 2022
Fast track – Straightforward claims of up to £25,000
Multi track – Complex claims of up to £25,000; and claims exceeding £25,000
Claims can be ‘switched’ later on where the judge decides it is appropriate. Importantly, these tracks involve different costs implications, for example costs may be capped at a certain level.
Yes, the fact that you were already physically vulnerable in some way makes little difference to whether or not you can claim for further injury or harm caused by someone else. This is often referred to as the ‘thin skull’ rule: the other side cannot avoid a claim simply because you are more susceptible to the injury than the next person.
The particular challenge in this type of case is calculating a fair level of compensation, for example, determining the period of time for which your pre-existing condition or vulnerability has been worsened because of someone’s negligence.
Simply contact our trained legal advisers for a free initial chat about what you’ve experienced. Once they decide you have grounds to make a claim, they will partner you with an experienced personal injury solicitor who can take full details and get the ball rolling.
They will conduct your claim on your behalf and guide you through every step. They will conduct your claim on your behalf and guide you through every step. Call now for free on 0800 234 6438 or complete the online claim form and you can request a call back.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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