Contents of a letter of claim for a disease or illness

The Pre-Action Protocol for Disease and Illness Claims sets out details as to what a letter of claim for a disease or illness claim should contain.

The Protocol applies to all personal injury claims where there is “any illness physical or psychological, any disorder, ailment, affliction, complaint, malady or derangement other than a physical or psychological injury solely caused by an accident or other similar event”.

What are the requirements of the Protocol?

If the Claimant decides to proceed with a disease or illness claim he is expected to send 2 copies of a letter of claim to the Defendant as soon as sufficient information is available to substantiate a realistic claim. The purpose of the second copy is so that the Defendant can pass a copy on to his insurers. 

Sufficient information should be provided so as to enable the Defendant or his insurer or solicitor to commence investigations and at least put a broad valuation on the “risk”.  

Claimants are encouraged to adopt the standard format letter annexed to the Protocol. In any event the letter of claim should contain the following information:

Information about the Claimant

The letter of claim should state the full name and address of the Claimant. It should also state his date of birth and National Insurance number. In relation to claims arising out of the workplace his clock or works number should also be stated.

The facts

The letter of claim should contain a clear summary of the facts on which the claim is based.  

A chronology of the relevant events should be provided.  

Where an occupational disease is alleged an employment history should be provided, particularly if the Claimant has been employed by a number of different employers and the illness or disease is of a type which has a long latency period. The employment history should set out the Claimant’s job description, provide dates, describe where the Claimant worked and what he did. Where appropriate this should include details of any machines used by him and details of any exposure to noise or substances.

Details of the illness or disease

The letter of claim should include details of the illness or disease and give details of the Claimant’s present condition and prognosis. This should be sufficiently detailed to enable the Defendant’s insurer or solicitor to put a broad value on the claim. 

The letter of claim should set out the date or approximate date upon which the Claimant first became aware of the symptoms, the date when the Claimant first received medical advice about those symptoms and details of the advice given if appropriate. The letter of claim should also set out the date or approximate date upon which the Claimant first believed that those symptoms might be due to exposure leading to the claim.  

If the Claimant has rehabilitation needs these can also be set out in the letter of claim.

Allegations of fault

The letter of claim should set out the main allegations of fault. 

In the case of an occupational disease claim details should be provided, where available, of any contemporary and comparable employees who have suffered from similar problems to the Claimant. Where appropriate details of any protective equipment provided or known complaints made should be provided as should details of the supervisors concerned.

Financial loss suffered

The letter of claim should outline any financial loss suffered by the Claimant. This will include any loss of earnings due to the Claimant taking time off work. 

Where the Claimant has taken time off work the dates he took off work should be stated. As should his job description and average net weekly income. Where the Defendant is the Claimant’s employer, the Defendant should be asked to provide details of his usual earnings.

Other Defendants and insurers

The identity of any other potential Defendant should be set out in the letter of claim and, where known, the identity of any insurer involved.

Documents

Any relevant documents should be identified in the letter of claim, including health records. Where the illness or disease is alleged to have caused the death of the Claimant the death certificate, post mortem report, inquest depositions and grant of probate or letters of administration will normally need to be identified.  

Copies of any such documents are not generally provided with the letter of claim. Normally they are disclosed in confidence to the Defendant’s nominated insurance manager or solicitor once they have acknowledged receipt of the letter of claim.

Medical evidence

The Claimant is not required to provide medical evidence with the letter of claim, although he may do so. A Claimant may, however, wish to disclose this in confidence to the Defendant’s nominated insurance manager or solicitor once they have acknowledged receipt of the letter of claim.

Conditional fee agreements

If the case is funded by a conditional fee agreement this should be stated in the letter of claim as should the fact that there is a success fee and, where appropriate, an insurance premium.

Insurers

The letter of claim should request that the Defendant forward a copy of it to his insurers and ask him to confirm the identity of his insurers.

Date for acknowledging the letter of claim

The Claimant should indicate that it expects an acknowledgment of the letter of claim within 21 days by either the Defendant or his insurers.