When someone makes a formal claim for personal injury compensation, they will need to send a ‘letter of claim’. This essentially sets out the background leading up to the claim, and the injuries sustained.
What should the letter of claim contain?
The Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims (which sets out expected standards of the parties in personal injury claims)provides details as to what the letter of claim should contain. This Pre-Action Protocol applies to all personal injury claims, apart from medical negligence claims, disease or illness claims, and low value personal injury claims arising out of road traffic accidents.
The Protocol encourages claimants to adopt the wording of the precedent letter of claim annexed to the Protocol (available on the justice.gov.uk website). In any letter of claim, the following should be included:
Information about the Claimant
It should contain the Claimant’s full name and address, occupation, their employer’s name and address if employed, and any clock or works number they may have.
Information about the claim
The letter of claim should contain sufficient information to substantiate a realistic claim and to enable the defendant’s insurer and/or solicitor to commence investigations and form a broad valuation as to the “risk”. It should contain a clear summary of the facts, and an indication of the injuries suffered, and of any financial loss incurred. In particular, it should provide the following information:
- Details about how the accident occurred
- The date and time of the accident or incident
- Where the accident occurred. The place of the accident should be sufficiently detailed to enable the Defendant to establish the location where it occurred
- Briefly, the reason why the Claimant alleges the accident was the Defendant’s fault
- Brief details of the Claimant’s injuries
- Details of any time taken off work as a result of the accident and the Claimant’s approximate weekly income, if known
The Claimant must send the Defendant, as soon as practicable, a Schedule of Special Damages with supporting documents. This may accompany the letter of claim.
Road traffic accidents
Where the claim arises from a road traffic accident and hospital treatment was required, the letter of claim should contain the name and address of the hospital and, where available, the Claimant’s hospital reference number.
Any funding arrangements should be stated, for example, where the Claimant has entered into a conditional fee agreement. The date of the funding agreement should be given and, where appropriate, the Claimant must say if there is a success fee and/or insurance premium. Where the funding arrangement is an insurance policy, the following additional information should be provided:
- The name and address of the insurer
- The policy number
- The date of the policy
- The claim or claims to which it relates, for example, whether it relates to any counterclaim in addition to the claim
The Claimant should request details of the Defendant’s insurer and ask that the Defendant sends a copy of the letter of claim to his insurer (if there is one). Where the Defendant’s insurers are known, the Claimant should confirm that a copy of the letter of claim has been sent direct to the insurers and should state their name, address and claims number if known.
Two copies of the letter of claim should be sent to the Defendant (the second is for the Defendant to pass on to the insurer, if insured). Where the insurer is known, a copy of the letter of claim should also be sent direct to the insurer.
If the Claimant is still suffering from the effects of the injury, the Defendant should be invited to participate with the Claimant in addressing his immediate needs by way of rehabilitation.
The Protocol encourages the parties to exchange information at an early stage. Therefore, the letter of claim may contain a request that the Defendant provides documentation relevant to the case.
Requests for information from employer Defendants
If the Defendant is the Claimant’s employer, details of the Claimant’s usual earnings should be requested to enable the Claimant to calculate any financial loss.
Request for contribution towards the cost of obtaining a police report
Where a police report was prepared, the Claimant should obtain an undertaking from the Defendant to meet half the fee.
Date for acknowledging the letter of claim
The Claimant should indicate when it expects the Defendant (or the insurer) to acknowledge receipt of the letter of claim. Normally, this will be within 21 days of the date of the letter of claim.