The procedures involved in taking a personal injury case to court can be long and expensive. Before starting, you need to be sure that you have a reasonable case and that you can raise the necessary funding.
Solicitors accept most reasonable cases on a ‘conditional fee’ or ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis. Household, motoring, travel and other types of insurance cover for legal expenses. The insurance company will fund taking a case to court if it is thought to have a reasonable chance of success. Check your insurance policies to see if you are covered before you opt for any other source of funding. Public funding – formerly called legal aid – is now only available for cases involving clinical negligence.
You are not always entitled to compensation just because you have been hurt or injured. To claim for personal injury, you must usually show that someone else was at fault or had breached a legal duty or has attacked you (for example, you can claim compensation for injuries inflicted deliberately).
You can claim against an individual, a company, an organisation, a shop, a manufacturer, a local authority, a criminal, a driver, your employer, an insurance company, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
Further, you may be able to claim for injuries caused by a criminal attack, medical negligence, an occupational illness (illness brought about by your work), a defective product, a contaminated food and while practising a sport. You can also claim compensation for injuries caused by an accident at work, on the roads (caused by a private vehicle), on public transport, in shop or office, at school or college, in a public place, in a private house/ land and while on holiday.
You can usually start a court claim for personal injury compensation up to three years after the date of the incident. However, this ‘limitation period’ may be extended for:
The three-year period starts on their eighteenth birthday, so children can claim up to the age of twenty-one, even for injuries that happened at birth.
They can make a claim at any time or until they no longer need treatment – as with a temporary disability caused by, say, a head injury.
They must claim within three years of when they become aware of the seriousness of the condition, that it was caused by negligence, and who or which body was responsible. Such conditions include illnesses caused by contact with asbestos.
They must claim within three years of the date of the injury, or of the date when they located the manufacturer, and within ten years of buying the product.
You have to ask the court’s permission to claim after the time limit expires.
If you win personal injury case, the damages may be paid as a single payment, interim damages or a provisional damage. A single payment is the final settlement of your claim. Interim damages are a proportion of the proposed final sum owed if the other party admits liability but disputes the final amount of damages. Interim damages enable you to settle immediate bills before the court decides that final amount. Provisional damages are a sum of money paid if the final outcome of the injury remains uncertain. You can return to court at a later date if your condition becomes worse and the sum should be increased.
You were injured when your new lawnmower backfired as you started it. The manufacturer is denying any liability.
Please note that manufacturers are responsible for injuries caused by defective goods. As long as you followed the instructions correctly and did not alter the mower in any way, you should consider taking legal action against the mower’s manufacturer for personal injury.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that you only have to prove that the lawnmower was unsafe and that it caused your injury. You do not have to prove negligence by the manufacturer. If there is any double about the cause of the accident, a court will consider warnings and instructions about use, the age of the machine and what is regarded as reasonable use.
Your first step should be to contact a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre about purchasing a claim against the manufacturer. If you believe that the manufacturer breached safety standards, you should also complain to your local trading standards office or the Department of trade and Industry. The manufacturer may have broken one of the regulations that are designed to protect the user of electrical equipment, and if this were proved, it would help your personal injury claim.
Your mother tripped over a loose kerbstone when walking to the shops and broke her hip. She wants to take legal action against the council.
According to the Highways Act 1980, the council has to keep the highways in its area, including pavements, in a safe condition. Your mother would have to prove that the kerbstone was dangerous, and a court will assess the severity of the risk. The position of the kerbstone is more likely to cause harm on a busy shopping street than in a quite place.
Your mother needs to gather evidence. Collect statements from anyone who saw the incident. Measure how far the kerbstone protrudes and take photographs. Consult a solicitor about making a complaint.
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