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How To Make A Personal Injury Claim in Northern Ireland

Welcome to LightLaw’s comprehensive Guide on how to make a personal injury claim in Northern Ireland.

If you have been involved in an accident, we’re going to help you find out how to get compensation.

GETTING STARTED

Read this Guide to find out:

  • How the personal injury claim process works, step by step

  • How to avoid the common pitfalls that could wreck your claim

  • How to get a sharp legal team to fight your case (that doesn’t cost the earth)

  • And how to make sure you get every last penny of compensation that you deserve.

    Let’s get started…

Contents

Chapter 1

Injury Claims: What

You Need To Know

Chapter 2

How Much Can I Claim

For My Personal Injury?

Chapter 3

Your Personal Injury

Solicitor

Chapter 4

Settling Personal Injury

Claims: Tactics & Tips

Chapter 5

When You Injury Claim

Goes To Court

Chapter 6

Your Personal Injury

Award

Chapter 7

Other Important Info

About Injury Claims

 

Important

Disclaimer: Every personal injury claim is different.  This guide outlines general topics you should be thinking about when making your personal injury claim. But it is not legal advice. If you want to make a claim, you should contact a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor for advice on your specific circumstances.

1. What Is A Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim is a legal process. You can use it to claim compensation if you get injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault. 

Imagine you’re cleaning out your garage. A heavy piece of garden furniture topples over and breaks your toe.

Should you be entitled to compensation?

Not really.

Your injury is nobody else’s fault.

But what if you’re using a machine at work – and your employer hasn’t bothered to fit safety guards?

A piece of metal flies out of the machine and injures your face. Should you be entitled to compensation?

Absolutely.

Your facial injury could be considered to be someone else’s fault (your employer’s).

Accidents are sometimes someone else’s fault.

And sometimes, that person should have taken more care to stop the accident happening in the first place (that’s known as a duty of care).

If you’re injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, and that person should have taken more care, guess what?

The law says that you should be compensated.

And the legal process of getting that compensation – that’s a personal injury claim.

2. Personal Injury: What Injuries Can I Claim For?

You can claim for both physical and psychological injuries. Personal injury claims can be made for diseases, illnesses, mental harm and any other type of hurt you have suffered.

An accident can cause you pain and loss in a million different ways.

Not only can harm be physical, but it can be mental or disease-related too.

Here are some examples:

  • breaking your foot on a damaged paving stone would be a physical personal injury
  • developing depression due to work-related stress would be a psychological personal injury
  • getting asbestosis from breathing in asbestos fibres at work would be a disease personal injury

You get the picture.

Here are some common injuries you can claim compensation for:

  • Whiplash claims
  • Hearing loss claims
  • Car accident claims
  • Slipping or tripping claims
  • Medical negligence claims
  • Accidents at work claims
  • Farming accident claims
  • Asbestos claims
  • Bicycle injury claims
  • Criminal injury claims
  • Pedestrian hit by car claims
  • Hit and run driver claims
  • Work-related stress claims
If your injury isn’t on the list, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a claim.

Just ask yourself the following question: 

Have I suffered harm because of an accident and is someone else at fault?

If the answer is yes, you should read on, because you may have a legal right to compensation.

3. I’ve Suffered A Personal Injury: What Do I Do Next? (Checklist)

Getting caught up in an accident is traumatic. But if you can take certain steps after the accident, you can drastically improve your chances of making a successful personal injury claim.

I know what you’re thinking:

“If I’m in an ambulance or seeking medical treatment after an accident, the last thing I’m going to be doing is ticking boxes on some personal injury checklist.”

And you have a point.

In a serious accident, you’re not going to be thinking about gathering evidence for a personal injury claim. Getting medical treatment – that will be the first thing on your mind.  

But for less serious accidents, where you can still act afterwards, there is a lot you can do that will strengthen any claim you might make in the future.

The quicker you can tick off the items on the checklist below, the better. Each one will help massively if you decide to make a claim.

1. Tell the people who need to know

If you are involved in a road traffic accident, report it to the police. If you slip on a wet supermarket floor, tell the manager. If your accident is at work, make sure the accident book is filled out. If you have insurance cover, get in touch with the insurance company and let them know. You’re not trying to make things difficult for people – you’re just making sure that your accident is recorded. Having a record of the accident will be useful when you make your claim.

2. Get photos

A picture is worth much more than a thousand words, when it comes to personal injury claims. In fact, a picture could be the difference between winning your claim and losing it. Involved in a road traffic accident? Take photos of any damage, any injuries, road markings, the vehicles, the scene of the accident, weather conditions, everything. Injured by a faulty machine at work? Get photos of the machine itself, the surrounding area, your injuries, what you were wearing, everything. If you can’t take photos yourself, ask someone to take them for you.

3. Talk to witnesses

Accidents can turn into a blame game. You blame the other person and they blame you. This makes it hard to decide who is at fault – it’s your word against theirs. How do you tip the balance in your favour? Witnesses. If anyone saw the incident, make sure you (or somebody else) get their contact details. Even better, ask them to quickly write down what they saw. Their evidence could make all the difference to your claim.

4. See your doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Describe your injuries in as much detail as you can. Tell the doctor about any pain you are feeling, no matter how minor it is. If the injury is affecting your ability to do anything you would normally do (eg. work duties, sport, shopping, housework, gardening, etc.), let the doctor know.

5. Ask if there is video

17% of drivers have dashcams fitted to their cars. That figure is set to rise to over 50%. CCTV is everywhere. There is a chance that your accident was recorded on video by somebody. So it’s worth asking any drivers or businesses close by to see if they have a recording.

6. Get your pen and paper out

Personal injury claims can take years to process. Perhaps you remember everything right now, but that might not be the case in two or three years. So sit down with a cup of coffee and write out notes about what happened. Include dates, times, witnesses, visibility, weather conditions, any vehicles/machinery that were involved, or anything else that might be of use to your claim.

7. Start keeping records

A judge can’t give you compensation without proof. So how do you get proof? Payslips, order books and bank statements. Receipts for money spent on hospital appointments, treatment, parking and travel. Invoices. And it’s not just things you spend money on. It’s unpaid help too. Have your family/friends helped you? Write it down. Make a note of everything related to your accident. It’s worth doing – those records will help you get all the compensation you are entitled to.

Remember, if you can’t prove it, you can’t claim for it!

1. The Personal Injury Process: What Will I Get Out Of It?

The personal injury claim process has a clear goal. That goal is to return you, as near as possible, to the position you would be in if the accident had never happened. Most of the time, it does this by awarding you compensation.

There are 5 big benefits to the personal injury process (and not all of them are to do with compensation):

  1. you’ll get a detailed diagnosis of your injury from medical experts
  2. you’ll get the best advice on what long-term effects (if any) you may suffer
  3. you’ll get all the professional treatment you need to make the best recovery possible
  4. you’ll be compensated for the loss and distress you suffered due to the accident
  5. you can look to the future with some financial and medical certainty

Personal injury claims are not just about compensation.

Getting clarity about your injuries, and how you can expect them to heal, can be just as important as getting a cheque.  

But let’s not pretend. Compensation is always going to play a big role in helping you get back on your feet.

And that’s what we’re going to look at next.

2. How Are Personal Injury Compensation Claims Calculated?

Personal injury compensation calculations are made up of two parts: special damages and general damages. Special damages cover things you can calculate a value for (e.g. a bill for medical treatment). General damages cover things you can’t easily calculate a value for (e.g. pain and suffering).

Reading about personal injury compensation figures, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are plucked out of thin air.

But that’s not what happens.

The amount of compensation you get is calculated precisely.

If you know how personal injury compensation is calculated, you can make sure that your claim covers everything you’re entitled to.

Believe it or not, this can add thousands of pounds to your award.

There are two types of damages you can claim for: special damages and general damages.

Here’s how it works:

 1. Special Damages

Special damages aren’t that special at all. They just give you back the money you have already spent due to your accident. If you want to claim special damages, you’ll be asked to provide evidence.

Evidence would be receipts, invoices, written records, etc.

You can claim special damages for things like:

  • tablets or prescriptions
  • medical bills (treatment from a doctor, physiotherapist, etc.)
  • any equipment you need after the accident
  • wages you lost from taking time off work
  • the cost of recovering and repairing your car after a road traffic accident
  • hiring a replacement car
  • what your car was worth before the accident (less scrap value if written off)
  • your insurance policy excess
  • travel costs (buses/taxis/trains/fuel, etc.)
  • damage to your clothes, glasses, jewellery, etc.
  • damage to other items (phone, laptop, etc.)
  • the cost of any domestic help you needed after the accident – and this can include family/friends*
You can see how it all adds up, can’t you?

Lots of people don’t keep records and receipts for these costs. So they find it harder to claim for them later on.

And that means their compensation cheque is nowhere near as big as it should be.

Don’t make the same mistake.

Keep your records and receipts – they can be worth a lot of extra money when it comes to calculating your compensation award.

That’s special damages – let’s look at general damages next.

 

2. General Damages

It’s easy to claim back medical treatment expenses that you have already paid for.

You just produce the receipts – job done.  

But what about:

  • the medical care you will need for the next year?
  • the months of pain you endured as a result of your injury?
  • what if you need medical care for the rest of your life?

You can’t produce a receipt for those losses – but they are still important parts of your claim. They’re often worth huge sums of money to you and your family.  

This is what general damages are for. General damages compensate you for losses that are hard to measure.

You can claim general damages for things like:

  • your pain and suffering
  • the cost of medical treatment you may need in the future
  • being unable to carry out day-to-day tasks/hobbies
  • loss of future earnings if you can’t work in the same job
  • loss of pension rights if your career was interrupted
  • loss of opportunity if your career prospects have been damaged
  • future expenses for transport, housing, etc

The bad news about general damages is that the calculations are so complex, they would make your head spin.

The good news is that you don’t have to do them.

(You’ll find out who does the calculations in Chapter 3!)

All you have to remember is to keep receipts and records for everything.

If you do that, you’ll not be left out of pocket.

3. Is There A Personal Injury Claims Calculator For Northern Ireland?

Personal injury calculators are fun to play with. But be careful – most calculators don’t provide accurate compensation estimates. Damages in Northern Ireland are different to those in Great Britain. And many calculators do not provide estimates for special damages. So proceed with caution!

If you’ve read the last chapter, you’ll know one thing for sure:

Calculating compensation for personal injuries is complicated.

If you’re trying to get an idea of how much your personal injury is worth, you’ll probably have seen personal injury claims calculators online.

The idea is simple. You describe your injuries, press a button, and out pops a value for your claim.

Here’s what you should bear in mind when using online personal injury claim calculators:

  • Most of them only calculate general damagesspecial damages are often left out
  • Compensation varies depending on where it is being claimed. If your claim is in Northern Ireland, but you’re using an English compensation calculator, the results won’t be accurate.
  • Most calculators don’t ask you for anything like the level of detail needed to make an accurate estimate.

Personal injury calculators are interesting and a bit of fun, but you can’t rely on them for an exact calculation of how much you can claim for your personal injury.

So what can you do instead?

Well, you could start by taking a look at the Northern Ireland Guidelines For General Damages book.

If your case comes to court, this is the book that the judge will use when they decide how much compensation you should get.

(And remember, special damages will be added to the compensation figures in that book. We looked at examples of special damages claims here.)

The other thing you could do is just ask someone who really knows the answer. Get in touch with a Northern Ireland based personal injury solicitor and see what they think. They’ll be able to give you a better estimate than any online calculator.
Ok – so now we know what we can claim compensation for. The next question is who pays it?  

Let’s answer that now.

4. Who Pays My Personal Injury Claim Compensation?

The person who caused your accident is responsible for paying you compensation. If the person who caused the accident is insured, their insurance company will take over the case and pay you compensation on their behalf.

In the Northern Irish legal system, the person making the claim is called the plaintiff.

The person who is alleged to have caused the accident is called the defendant.

If you win your personal injury claim, the defendant will be responsible for paying your compensation.  

Most of the time, the defendant will have an insurance policy to deal with claims. A driver in a road traffic accident will (almost always) be insured. An employer or the owner of a commercial premises should be insured too.

When you warn the defendant that you intend to make a claim, they will tell their insurance company.

It will then step in and manage the process.

(Note: just to make things easier – when we use the word “defendant”, we’re also talking about any insurance company managing the claim on that defendant’s behalf.)

Sometimes a defendant won’t have a valid insurance policy. In those cases, the defendant themselves will be responsible.

In road traffic accidents, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau provides cover where a defendant is not insured or can’t be identified.

One of the biggest pitfalls of all, when it comes to personal injury claims, is not being able to identify the defendant. If you don’t have a defendant, you don’t have a claim!
So always remember to find out the details of who is at fault for the accident, if at all possible.

5. Am I Entitled To An Interim Compensation Payment?

Interim compensation payments help you with living and treatment expenses while you are waiting for your personal injury claim to settle. If liability is admitted, or your claim is likely to succeed, you can ask for an interim compensation payment to be made.

You better not be in a hurry!

Because personal injury claims can take months (or even years!) to settle.

So what do you do in the meantime?

It’s not as if your bills stop coming through the letterbox every month.

It doesn’t matter that you can’t go to work because of your injuries – the bank still expects you to pay your mortgage.

And what about medical treatment? You can’t put off getting treatment for your injury while waiting for your compensation to come through.

Your injuries need attention now – and that treatment costs money.

So what can you do?

Well, this is where interim compensation payments come in.

They are advance payments to you that are deducted from your final compensation award. Like an advance on your wages.

They tide you over until your claim is settled and you get your cheque.  

Now, here’s the thing – not all accident claims are suitable for interim compensation payments.

For an interim compensation payment to be approved, generally:

  • the defendant must have been found liable (or admitted liability) for the accident
  • the court must be convinced that your final award will be greater than the interim payment you are asking for

Any accident is traumatic enough. Waiting for your claim to settle shouldn’t force you and your family into financial hardship, on top of everything else you have to cope with.

So if your case is suitable, you should think about applying for an interim payment.

If approved, it is a great way to ease the financial pressure while waiting for your claim to settle.

6. What Is The Time Limit To Claim For Personal Injury?

The time limit to claim for a personal injury is 3 years. Time starts running from the date you first became aware of your injury. It stops when you file your personal injury claim with the court. If you miss the time limit, you may lose your right to claim.

Big fat zero.

That could be how much you get for your personal injury, if you miss the time limits!  

You can’t just make a personal injury claim whenever you want. There are time limits. And unless there are exceptional circumstances, the court is strict about enforcing them.

You have to make your claim within three years of:

  • the date of your accident, or
  • the date you became aware of your injuries.

How do you know which one applies? Well, it depends on when you became aware of your injuries. The following examples will explain how it works:

Say you are a pedestrian walking across the road at a zebra crossing. A car fails to stop and knocks you down, breaking your arm. A broken arm is immediately obvious, right? When you have one, you know all about it!

So in that case, the time limit for making your personal injury claim will be three years from the date of the accident.

Say you are a joiner. You were working on house 20 years ago. You didn’t know it at the time, but there was asbestos in the roof. You’ve now been told that you have asbestosis in your lungs. The effects of asbestosis aren’t obvious until many years after exposure. So it was impossible to know about your injury when it happened.  

In that case, the time limit for making your claim will be three years from the date you first became aware of your injuries.

The clock runs until the day you lodge your claim with the court.

(The time limits for claims involving minors are slightly different. You can read more here.)

So what does all this mean?

Well, if it’s been a while since you’ve had your accident, or noticed your injuries, you need to act fast.

Don’t dither. If the deadline slips past, you might not have a valid claim at all anymore. You could be letting thousands of pounds slip through your fingers.

What should you do if you think time is running out?

You should speak to a personal injury solicitor. They’ll be able to advise you what to do. Even if you think the time limit has expired for your claim, you should still see a solicitor. In certain situations, the time limits can be extended.

Read on, because in the next Chapter, you’ll find out how to pick the best personal injury solicitor for your case.

1. Do I Need A Solicitor To Make A Personal Injury Claim?

No. There is no requirement to hire a solicitor when making a personal injury claim. You can represent yourself in settlement negotiations and in court. But – representing yourself is a big task. So carefully consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

Solicitors aren’t exactly popular, are they?

They’re never there when you ring them.

They’re expensive.

And it’s not clear what exactly they do to justify the big fees.

So…if you can represent yourself in court, why not cut out the solicitor and save all the money and hassle?

Well, let’s look at the pros and cons of hiring a solicitor for your accident claim – and then you can decide what’s best for you.

Representing Yourself: Advantages

  • You might save some money on legal fees if you represent yourself.
  • You are the person who is living first-hand with the consequences of the accident. So you might be the best person to communicate that to the defendant, insurance company, judge, etc.
  • Some people think that people who represent themselves in court have an advantage.

Representing Yourself: Disadvantages

  • Insurance company claims managers are seriously tough negotiators. Their job is to get away with paying you as little as possible. If you aren’t an experienced negotiator and don’t have a knowledge of the law, you’ll be at a disadvantage.  
  • Litigation is complex. You will spend many, many hours learning legal principles, court procedures and rules of evidence (just winging it won’t work).
  • Mistakes are costly. Something you miss could reduce the amount of compensation you get. Or could wreck your claim completely (in which case you may be responsible for the defendant’s legal costs – likely to run into thousands of pounds).
  • You’ll have to prepare all the evidential documents to prove your claim (many hundreds of pages of evidence wouldn’t be unusual).
  • If you hire a solicitor and they make a mistake with your claim, you can sue the solicitor for your losses. If you mess up the claim, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. You just have to live with the consequences.
  • A Law Society and Financial Conduct Authority study revealed that people who used solicitors in personal injury claims got on average 2 – 3 times more compensation than those that didn’t.
Of course, the choice is yours. But remember – no defendant will hand over thousands of pounds of compensation to you easily.

It’s going to be a fight.

Just like you want to get as much compensation as possible, the defendant will do everything they can to pay you as little compensation as possible. Or nothing at all.

That’s their job.

For a small number of people, who relish a challenge and the risk involved, representing themselves will be a viable option.

For everyone else, hiring a good personal injury solicitor will be the best way to secure a good result for your claim.

2. How To Choose The Best Personal Injury Solicitor For Your Case

The best personal injury solicitor is someone you trust, someone you can communicate with and someone who will fight for your best interests. There are different types of accident claim solicitors you can choose from: claims management companies, local solicitors and specialist personal injury solicitors. You should pick the one that feels best for you.

If you decide to hire a personal injury solicitor, you’ll have plenty to choose from.

It’s hard to go through a full day without coming across ads for them on the radio or on television.

Solicitors want your business. That puts you in control. You can afford to be choosy about who you hire for your case.

People are sometimes reluctant to contact solicitors about their personal injury claim. They fear that a solicitor can charge them just for chatting on the phone.

A solicitor should not charge you anything until you have instructed them to take on your case. So don’t be afraid to contact a few of them – and choose the one you like best.

You’ll come across three different types of personal injury solicitors. Each have advantages and disadvantages, so it’s a good idea to know what they are:

Claim Management Companies

You know the persistent phone calls you get about accidents? They’re usually claims management companies. They run most of the aggressive advertising you see too. Most will tell you whatever you need to hear to get you signed up.

Then they refer your case to a solicitor (in return for a fee).

Here’s a big problem with claims management companies: if the solicitor they use is not based in Northern Ireland, they might not be able to take your claim all the way to court. This could mean that they settle your case early, which means you may get less compensation than you deserve. If you want the best representation in Northern Ireland, you should use a solicitor who has an office here.

A good rule to remember is this: if someone, who you have never heard of, rings you out of the blue about your claim, and makes big promises, proceed with caution!

Your Local Solicitor

Most local solicitors in Northern Ireland do personal injury claims.

The benefit of using a local solicitor is that you can just drop in to see them. You’re likely to get a personal service with a local firm, often with just one solicitor looking after your claim.

There is only one big concern with using your local solicitor though. If they do a little bit of everything (criminal work, property, divorce, etc.), as well as accident compensation claims, they might not have a deep, specialist knowledge of personal injury litigation.

Specialist Personal Injury Solicitors

These are larger firms, usually based in cities like Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Newry.

They tend to focus exclusively on personal injury claims, so they have expert knowledge.

The downside is that large firms may struggle to provide you with a personal service. A solicitor or paralegal could be handling hundreds of claims at once – that doesn’t leave much time for yours!

There have been complaints that some of these firms feel less like solicitors and more like call centres – and each time you ring about your case, you may find yourself speaking to a different person.

When deciding what personal injury solicitor is best for you, here are three things you should be thinking about:

1. Is this someone I can trust?

 Ok, it’s not easy to make a judgement on trust after one short conversation or meeting. But it’s something you should be thinking about from the start. If you don’t trust your solicitor, you may run into big problems with your claim.

2. Can I get on with this person?

 A successful personal injury claim is a team effort. You will communicate regularly with the solicitor as your claim progresses. So you should hire someone that you can see yourself having a professional relationship with.

 3. Can I imagine this person fighting for my case?

You want a solicitor who is tenacious, takes an interest in your claim and is enthusiastic about getting the best outcome for you.
Does the solicitor you’re talking to tick these boxes? If so, they should be able to do a great job with your claim.

Or maybe you’re still making up your mind about who is the best personal injury solicitor for you?

Then ask them some of the questions from the next section. How they answer should help you make your pick!

3. 14 Questions To Grill A Personal Injury Solicitor With

When you’re talking with a solicitor about your claim, you don’t have to let them dictate the conversation. Ask some of these questions to find out if they are a good fit for your case.

You’re hiring the solicitor, not the other way round.

So you don’t need to sit there, listen to them talk for half an hour and then leave. Instead, you should be scrutinising them – seeing if they are the best person to take your case.

Ask questions – and don’t be afraid to ask a question in case you sound stupid! Every single query is a valid one, so make the solicitor earn your business.

But what if you can’t think of any questions to ask?

If that’s you, don’t worry. You can use some of the 14 questions below.

Any good solicitor should happily answer each one.

  1. What are your legal qualifications and how long have you been practising?
  2. Can you give me an example of a similar claim you have dealt with?
  3. Who will be dealing with my claim? Will it just be you or will other people be involved? Are they experienced, qualified solicitors? Can I meet them?
  4. How often will you update me on the progress of my claim? Will it be by phone, email or letter?
  5. How quickly do you respond to phone calls or emails? (Remember: the most common complaint made against solicitors is nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or expertise. It’s lack of communication.)
  6. Will you use a barrister in my claim? When will they be instructed?
  7. Do you personally review all documents relating to my case (including medical notes)?
  8. Can I have a copy of my medical notes if I want one?
  9. How exactly will my claim be funded? Can I apply for Legal Aid?
  10. Who will pay for medical reports and other expenses during my claim?
  11. Are there any financial risks to me if I take this claim? If so, what are they, how much are they and who could I end up owing money to?
  12. Can I apply for an interim compensation payment?
  13. After the claim ends, how long does it take to receive my compensation payment?
  14. Are any deductions made to any compensation payments I am awarded? If so, who makes the deductions and how much will they be?
Now listen – there’s no need to be aggressive.

Just ask some of the above questions in an enquiring way. If a solicitor doesn’t like being questioned about any of those topics, it would be a cause for concern.

You’ll have enough on your plate during the personal injury claim process – you shouldn’t need to worry about your solicitor too.

You should be relaxed that your case is being handled by the right person. Someone who is happy to engage with you, answer questions and help you along the journey.

And above all, it should be someone you trust.

4. How To Get Your Personal Injury Claim Off To The Best Start

Want to get your personal injury claim off to the best possible start? A productive first meeting with your solicitor is a great way to get the ball rolling. Here’s how to make sure your first consultation is worthwhile for everyone.  

Your first meeting with your personal injury solicitor can be insanely productive.

Or it can be a complete waste of time.

Think about the following two clients:

Client A turns up at the solicitor’s office to start their claim. But they can’t remember dates, times, vehicles, or names. They have no financial information with them, no photos, nothing.

In response, the solicitor will only be able offer vague advice. Without solid information, there is little more they can do. Client A will have to go away and come back when they have gathered more of the vital information needed to start a claim.

Client B, on the other hand, turns up at the solicitor’s office with:

    • all the evidence from Chapter 1
    • a full, clear account of what happened, including names of witnesses
    • receipts, records and financial documents to prove their losses
    • photographic ID and a utility bill (every solicitor asks new clients for these)

With this information, the solicitor can immediately advise Client B if they have a potential case. And if Client B decides to hire that solicitor, they will be ready to get to work on their claim straightaway.

As soon as your solicitor opens your case, they will start writing to people about your claim. This could include the defendant, insurance companies, doctors, etc.

If the information you have given the solicitor isn’t correct, these letters will contain mistakes.

And if inconsistencies in your memory are uncovered at a later date, it will undermine your credibility (which may reduce the amount of compensation you are offered).

That’s why it’s so important to give accurate, consistent instructions – right from the start of your claim

Now, don’t worry if you have already made a mistake. Just let your solicitor know as soon as possible. If they know about it, they can correct it. The sooner, the better.

The details might seem trivial now, but they could be worth thousands of pounds to you at some point in the future.

And finally, don’t be nervous about meeting a solicitor for the first time! If you are a potential new client, they’ll be delighted to see you!

5. Do No-Win, No Fee Solicitors Operate In Northern Ireland?

Personal injury solicitors in Northern Ireland can’t offer “no win, no fee” representation. But don’t be put off making a claim because you don’t think you can afford legal fees. There are other ways you can fund your personal injury claim.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think about personal injury claims?

The phrase “no win, no fee” is likely to feature somewhere.

No win, no fee is a way of paying the legal costs of your claim. It means that you only pay your solicitor a fee if you win your case (what happens if you lose your case depends on the agreement you have with your solicitor).

Solicitors in England and Wales can offer personal injury services on a no win, no fee basis. Their advertising is full of no win, no fee slogans. Seeing these ads make people in Northern Ireland think that local solicitors can offer the same services.

But the Law Society does not allow Northern Ireland  personal injury solicitors to offer no win, no fee arrangements.
If you’re wondering how you are going to fund your claim without no win, no fee, don’t worry.

Just because Northern Ireland personal injury solicitors can’t offer this kind of funding, it doesn’t mean that your claim is a lost cause.

There are other options.

6. How To Pay Your Personal Injury Claim Fees

Funding options for personal injury claims include: paying for it yourself, insurance cover, association memberships and legal aid. If you win your claim, the defendant will be responsible for your legal costs in most cases.  

Solicitors, barristers, doctors, accountants, engineers.

All of them play big roles in personal injury claims.

And none of them work for free!

As you can imagine, when you add up all the fees, personal injury claims get very expensive.

(To get a rough idea of solicitor and barrister fees, take a peek at the County Court scale costs).

So who foots the bill?

Well, here’s how it usually works:

  • if you win your claim, the defendant is responsible for your legal costs
  • if you lose your claim, you are responsible for both the defendant’s legal costs and your own

Yes – it’s high stakes.

If you win your case, that’s great. Your legal fees get covered and you pay nothing.

But if you lose, you could be on the hook for thousands of pounds of legal expenses.

There is a simple way to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises when it comes to legal fees.

And that is making sure you get clear legal advice about the strength of your claim at the outset.

The stronger your claim is, the more likely the defendant will be responsible for paying your legal fees.

If you have a strong claim:

There’s a high chance that you will get some compensation, so the risk of having a huge costs bill at the end will be very small.

If you have a weak claim:

If there is a chance that you could lose the claim completely, you’ll have to proceed carefully. Being held responsible for costs is a real possibility.

Some people pay for personal injury claims out of their own pocket.

But there are other ways to pay for your claim if you can’t afford to do that.

The following can sometimes help with legal expenses:

  • house insurance policies
  • car insurance policies
  • memberships of organisations like the AA or the RAC
  • Trade Union memberships
  • legal expenses insurance policies
  • Legal Aid (if you meet the financial requirements)

So, what if none of these apply to you and you don’t have enough spare cash to pay for your claim yourself?

Is your claim going nowhere?

No – even if you’re not sure how to fund your claim, you should still meet with a solicitor to find out what your options are.

Nearly all solicitors provide a free first consultation, so you won’t be left out of pocket.

Let them know your situation – you never know, they might be able to help.

7. What Are Personal Injury Expert Witnesses?

Personal injury expert witnesses are often doctors, accountants, engineers, etc. They examine evidence and provide their expert opinion on it. This specialist knowledge helps the court make important decisions about your case. Their input can also help both sides reach an agreed settlement.  

Big sums of money are at stake in personal injury claims.

So everyone needs to know exactly what caused the accident (liability) and what the losses are (quantum).

Questions like:

  • how fast was a car travelling when it crashed?
  • how often should an industrial machine be serviced?
  • what treatment is an injury going to need in 20 years’ time?
  • what impact does taking a lower paid job have on someone’s pension?

These are seriously complicated questions. And personal injury claims throw up questions like these all the time.

The last thing you want to do is to settle a claim without knowing the answers to these questions. Because the answers could add many thousands of pounds to your compensation. And if you settle your claim for less money than you should have, it’s almost impossible to reopen it later to ask for more money.

If you do a bad deal, you’re stuck with it.

So it’s vital to get everything right first time.

That’s where personal injury expert witnesses come in.

When a difficult question comes up in a case, a specialist in that field can be asked to examine the evidence and provide an expert opinion on it.

An expert’s opinion is persuasive in court. What they say about your case is important.

Here are examples of expert evidence in personal injury cases:

  • a medical professional (surgeon, doctor, physiotherapist, etc.) could write a report about how your injuries have reduced your mobility or strength
  • a specialist engineer could provide an expert opinion about a piece of defective equipment that caused your accident
  • a forensic accountant could calculate how your injury affected the performance of your business
  • an employment expert could investigate how your career prospects have changed since your injury  
If your case requires an expert witness, your solicitor will identify and appoint a suitable person.

If an expert wants to meet you, don’t be afraid to ask your solicitor about how to prepare. Just remember to give them complete and accurate answers to their questions, and you’ll be fine!

1. How Does The Personal Injury Claim Settlement Process Work?

The personal injury claim settlement process can start immediately. You could get an offer to settle as soon as a few hours after your accident, even before you make a claim. Negotiations to settle can continue right up until (and during) court proceedings. Both sides can make offers and counter-offers to settle the claim.

You need to have your wits about you when it comes to settling your personal injury claim.

You don’t want to settle it too early, for less money than you might be entitled to.

That would be a big mistake.

A quick cash payment might be nice now – but if you’re still paying for medical treatment in 5 years’ time, it won’t look like such a great deal then!

Equally, you don’t want to be too greedy, demanding a bigger offer that might never come. That would mean going to court – and nobody knows how a court hearing will go, or what a judge will think of your case.

Court is a big risk. As we saw in the last chapter, losing your case could mean that you are responsible for legal fees.

The process of settling personal injury claims can feel like a game of high-stakes poker.

When settlement figures (worth thousands of pounds) are being dangled in front of you, it’s easy to lose sight of what is important.

Asking yourself this question will keep you focused:

Do I know the full extent of my loss yet?

As soon as your solicitor opens your case, they will start writing to people about your claim. This could include the defendant, insurance companies, doctors, etc.

If the information you have given the solicitor isn’t correct, these letters will contain mistakes.

And if inconsistencies in your memory are uncovered at a later date, it will undermine your credibility (which may reduce the amount of compensation you are offered).

That’s why it’s so important to give accurate, consistent instructions – right from the start of your claim

Now, don’t worry if you have already made a mistake. Just let your solicitor know as soon as possible. If they know about it, they can correct it. The sooner, the better.

The details might seem trivial now, but they could be worth thousands of pounds to you at some point in the future.

And finally, don’t be nervous about meeting a solicitor for the first time! If you are a potential new client, they’ll be delighted to see you!

Example Of An Early First Offer To Settle A Personal Injury Claim

Say you are knocked off your bike by a car.

Your left leg and left elbow are badly bruised and you have some light pain in your lower back. You’re a bit shaken up. But nothing is broken. You take 2 days off work to let the pain ease.

 A week after the accident, you get a call from the defendant’s insurance company. They’re going to make you a very generous offer –  in full and final settlement of any claim you might make.

You’re surprised, because you haven’t even got round to contacting a solicitor yet, never mind making a claim. In fact, if everything got better, you probably wouldn’t have bothered making a claim at all.

 The amount of money on offer is surprising too. Very tempting. But there’s a catch. The insurance company tells you that the offer is only available right now – if you don’t accept it now, they’ll withdraw it.

So you accept, sign a few forms, and in less than a week, the money is in your bank account. Sweet!

 2 months later, your leg and elbow are fully healed. You wish you could say the same about your back though. Far from getting better, it’s getting worse. You decide to see a specialist. She advises you that you have serious soft tissue damage in your back.

You’ll need to see a physiotherapist for treatment. And you’ll need to give it at least 6 weeks of full rest to heal. That means no working, no driving, no shopping, no playing with the kids, nothing. 6 weeks of total downtime.

 The original offer you got from the insurance company seemed good when you only needed 2 days off work. When it turns out you’re taking 6 weeks off work and you need to see a physiotherapist – well, it wasn’t such a great offer after all!

And what if your back isn’t better after 6 weeks? What if you go back to work and it flares up again?

 You ring the insurance company tell them that circumstances have changed. You’ll need to top up the compensation payment to take account of what has happened.

 The insurance company politely reminds you that the compensation you accepted was “in full and final settlement” of any claim. What happens after you accept the offer is your problem.

As far as they are concerned, the case is closed and that’s the end of it.

Before accepting any offer to settle a personal injury claim, make sure it is enough to cover your entire loss.

Both for what has happened in the past, and what you might need in the future. 

Spend some time thinking about this. Don’t let any insurance company or call centre bully you into accepting anything. Meet with your solicitor and ask for advice on what exactly the settlement means for you. Speak to your family and other people you trust, to see what they think.

It’s a big decision and you don’t get a second chance. So don’t take it lightly.

2. Should I Accept A Personal Injury Claim First Offer?

No. You shouldn’t accept a personal injury first claim offer unless you’re sure that it is the best offer you can get. Sometimes insurers make early first time offers to settle a personal injury claim before solicitors get involved. Research from the Law Society and the Financial Conduct Authority revealed that people who were represented by solicitors in personal injury claims received 2 – 3 times more compensation than those that didn’t.

Don’t Get Mugged.

That was the name of a Law Society advertising campaign in 2013.

It highlighted the dangers of accepting early first offers from insurers in personal injury claims.

Some insurers try to reduce their costs by making early compensation offers to you directly (also known as “third-party capture”). The insurer rings you before you get the chance to see a solicitor about your accident. They put you under pressure on the phone to accept the compensation offer, or it will be withdrawn.

This is similar to what we were talking about in the last section. But it is worth repeating: accepting an early first offer from an insurance company, without taking legal advice, is risky.

For two reasons:

  • the offer could be much lower than you are entitled to
  • the full extent of your injuries and loss might not be obvious so soon after the accident

Imagine someone is on the phone telling you that you can have a few thousand pounds landing into your bank account within days. It’s very tempting.  

After all, you might really need the cash.

And if the insurance company is saying that the offer will be withdrawn unless you accept immediately, of course you’re going to feel under pressure.

That’s what it’s designed to do.

But don’t sell yourself short. Ask them to send you the offer in writing. In the meantime, consult with a personal injury solicitor and see what your options are.

The FCA and the Law Society found that on average, people who used solicitors for their personal injury claims received 2-3 times more compensation than those that didn’t.

So if you receive a call from an insurance company with a quick first offer to settle your personal injury claim, keep that statistic in mind.

3. How Long Does It Take To Settle A Personal Injury Claim?

Settling a personal injury claim take anything from a few minutes to a few years. If it is obvious who is at fault and your injuries are minor, you could receive an offer to settle almost immediately. In cases where blame is unclear and injuries are severe, it could take a lot longer before a settlement figure is agreed.

Your claim will be met with outright denial at the start.

The defendant will say they had nothing to do with your accident and can’t be held responsible.

That’s totally normal.

Your job (and your legal team’s job) is to chip away at that position until the defendant (a) accepts liability and (b) agrees a figure for compensation.

How do you do that?

With your evidence.

The quicker you can get the defendant to admit liability and start talking about compensation, the quicker your claim will be settled.

Straightforward cases, with clear evidence, can be settled fast.

If your claim is complex, your injuries are serious or your evidence isn’t great, it will take longer for both sides to reach agreement.

Serious negotiations to settle usually begin when both sides share their evidence with each other. The defendant might deny knocking you off your bike – until you show him a dashcam video of him knocking you off your bike.
Equally, if you say that you can’t walk, and the defendant shows you Facebook pictures you posted of your latest skydive, that will affect your claim too (something like this could prompt the defendant to reduce or even withdraw an existing offer).
Both sides start to see the strengths and weaknesses of their cases – and serious negotiations can begin.

When negotiations are happening, it is important to keep in touch with your solicitor. They should know exactly how much you are willing to settle the case for and should keep you up to date with any new offers that are made. 

And finally, do not settle a claim for a low amount just because you need money quickly! 

It’s not a good idea!

If waiting for a compensation payment puts you under financial pressure, tell your solicitor. If there is a way to tide you over (maybe an interim compensation payment), your solicitor can help you find it.

4. Offers To Settle: What Impact Do Costs Have On Settling Personal Injury Claims?

Deciding who pays legal costs is a big part of any personal injury claim. The defendant can use legal costs to put you under pressure to accept a settlement offer. Because costs can influence your decision to accept or reject an offer, you need to know how they work.

What’s a nightmare scenario when it comes to your personal injury claim?

Well, here’s a contender:

Imagine you win your claim and get awarded compensation. But you are held responsible for costs (fees for solicitors, barristers, doctors, etc.) Turns out the costs are actually bigger than your compensation payment. So even though you have technically won your claim, you lose money.

Talk about getting stung!  

It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. And the defendant will use the possibility of it happening to pressure you to settle.

Here’s how it works:

How Costs Work In Personal Injury Claim Settlements
Say the defendant makes you an offer of £4,000 during settlement negotiations.

You reject it, thinking you should hold out for a bigger compensation payout.

The defendant sticks to their guns and doesn’t increase their offer.

So off you go to court.

You win the trial, but the judge only awards you £3,700. £300 less than the earlier offer of £4,000.

So you should have accepted the first offer, instead of being greedy and holding out for more.

Because you didn’t accept the first offer, everyone had to trudge off to court for a full hearing.

So it’s only fair that you foot the bill for legal costs from the date the £4,000 offer was made onwards.

Court hearings are the most expensive part of a claim, so your compensation could easily be wiped out by legal fees.

And you could be left with a big bill on top.  

These negotiation tactics are called Calderbank Offers.

Tactics like these are used to try to settle a claim before it gets to court. What we have talked about here is a only a basic guide about how costs work – it can get much more complex than this.

The main thing to remember is: when negotiating a compensation figure for your claim, who pays for costs will always be factor.

Sometimes the offer on the table might not be as much as you would like. But if your solicitor is not confident that you could beat that offer in court, you could be exposing yourself to the nightmare scenario.

If you get an offer like this, it’s time to have a serious conversation with your solicitor. You need to decide if the extra compensation you might get in court is worth the extra risk.

So far we’ve been talking about settling claims. But what if you can’t settle? What if everyone has tried their best, but you just can’t get a settlement figure that’s acceptable to both you and the defendant?

You know what happens next.

It’s time to go to court.

1. What Happens When I Go To Court For My Personal Injury Claim?

Most personal injury cases settle before getting to court. But if your case is one of the few that doesn’t settle, you need to know how a personal injury court operates, what to call people and how to give credible evidence.

It’s the week before your personal injury court case and you’re freaking out.

What do you call people? Where do you stand? What do you say?

Court is alien territory for most people, that’s for sure.

The first thing to remember is this: even though you have a date to appear in court, only a tiny portion of personal injury cases end up in a full court hearing.

In the days and hours before your court hearing, the barristers will keep trying to settle.

If a court hearing can be avoided at all, it will.

Full court hearings are risky – nobody knows how a judge will view your case. And nobody wants to be on the losing side and risk having to pay everyone’s legal costs. When the stakes are high, minds get focused and serious discussions happen.

So, right up to the minutes before you go into the courtroom, there is always a chance that your case will settle.

But…

If your case is one of the few that doesn’t settle, and it goes in front of a judge to decide, you need to be ready.

You need to be ready for intense negotiations, be ready to tell your story in the witness box, and be ready to play your part in getting the compensation award you deserve.

Here’s how court hearings usually go (remember, you’re the plaintiff):

Personal Injury Claim Court Running Order

The plaintiff’s barrister introduces the case to the court

The plaintiff witnesses give evidence in favour of the claim (this includes you)

The plaintiff witnesses can be cross-examined by the defendant’s barrister

The defence witnesses give evidence against the claim

The defence witnesses can be cross-examined by the plaintiff barrister

The defence barrister gives a summary of the defence case to the judge

The plaintiff’s barrister gives a summary of the case to the judge

The judge can either make a decision immediately, or can take some time to think about it and issue their decision at a later point.

Of course, when you read all that, it’s natural to be nervous.

Giving evidence (and especially being cross-examined) can strike fear into the heart of the bravest people around.

But it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. If you’re prepared, you’ll find most of the questions easy to answer.

But if you still think your confidence levels need a boost, you can use some of the evidence-giving tips in the next section.  

2. How To Give Evidence At Your Personal Injury Court Hearing

If you are called to give evidence at your personal injury claim court hearing, you need to present yourself in the best way possible. Address the judge correctly, maintain your credibility and persuade the court that your version of events is the correct one.

There’s no point saying otherwise.  

Giving evidence is a stressful experience. There would be something wrong with you if you weren’t feeling the nerves as you walk up to the witness box.

But judges and barristers are used to dealing with anxious people in court. They do it every day of the week. Once you get started, you may find that giving evidence isn’t as bad as you expect it to be.

Who knows, you might even enjoy it!

When giving evidence, there’s only one person you need to worry about.

The judge.

There’ll be no jury there – the judge is the person that calls the shots.

If it comes down to your word against someone else’s, the judge will just decide who they believe most. So you must do everything you can to ensure that your side of the story is presented in the most credible way possible.

How do you make sure you come across as credible?

Well, imagine that you are the judge for a moment. You are listening to two people talk about their personal injury claims in court:

Witness A is well-presented, has a detailed knowledge of their case, and can answer questions precisely and confidently.

Witness B has wandered off somewhere just before he is about to give evidence, leaving everyone wondering where he is. When he finally makes it into the witness box, he is dressed in a dirty tracksuit, mumbles a lot and seems confused about the basic details of his case. To top it all off, the defence barrister catches him exaggerating the extent of his injuries.

Who are you more likely to believe?

People say that how you dress and how you speak in court shouldn’t matter. Maybe in a perfect world it wouldn’t. But in real life, judges care that you respect the court process and take it seriously.

If you want to win your case, what’s important to the judge should be important to you too.

So dress well, be respectful and make a good impression.

If you want to give convincing evidence, follow these tips:

Tips On How To Give Evidence In Personal Injury Claims

Address the judge by their proper title. In the County Court, call the judge “Your Honour”. In the High Court, call the judge “My Lord” or “My Lady”. Ask your solicitor if you are not sure. Call barristers by “Sir” or “Madam”.

Speak as clearly as possible. Everyone needs to hear what you are saying. The barristers, who will be in front of you, will be asking most of the questions. But you should direct your answers to the judge, who will usually be sitting to your side.

Know the facts of your case. Read your notes beforehand, swot up on the details and be ready to be questioned.

Keep your answers short and concise. Don’t go off on long-winded explanations or irrelevant stories.

If you can’t remember something – just say so. Don’t be tempted to fill in blanks or make things up. If the defence barrister thinks you are making things up, they will pull you up on it. If they can show that you exaggerate or tell stories, the judge might wonder what else you are making up. Stick to the facts.

Take your time. You are allowed to think about a question before answering – you don’t have to rush. If you do not understand a question, you can ask for it to be repeated or explained.

During cross examination, it is the defence barrister’s job to challenge your story. You’ll be asked difficult questions. You might even be told that you are lying. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t matter what the defence barrister thinks – the only person who matters is the judge. Stay calm and answer questions politely and truthfully. If you can’t remember something, or the barrister is saying something that is untrue, just say so.

If you stay calm, polite and clear, your evidence will be persuasive and credible.

If you get angry, stroppy and rude, you’ll not do yourself any favours.

When the barristers are finished making their cases, the judge will make their decision.

Sometimes the result is announced immediately. Other times the judge will take some time to think about your case.

When they announce the result, the judge will give reasons why they came to the decision they did. You can ask your solicitor to explain exactly what the decision means for you and what happens next.

If you are not happy with the result, you can appeal a personal injury claim decision in some (limited) circumstances. Your solicitor can advise if an appeal is an option in your case.

Hopefully your day in court ends with a decision in your favour. Court is stressful and tiring for everyone, no matter what the outcome.

So now you can go home, put your feet up and relax.

3. 6 Tips To Make Sure Your Personal Injury Court Hearing Goes Smoothly

A personal injury court hearing is never going to be fun. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as people make it out to be. Here are 6 tips that will help you keep things under control on the day.

  • Prepare: before the hearing, set aside time to read any case notes or documents you have. Ask your solicitor if there is anything they think you should do to prepare for giving evidence.
  • Arrive early: on the morning of your hearing, arrive at the court early. Then you’ll have time to meet your legal team, ask questions and get settled in.
  • Stay in contact: bring your mobile phone so you can get in touch with your solicitor, and they can get in touch with you. You don’t want to keep the judge waiting to start your case while you are away tucking into a muffin in a local coffee shop.
  • Dress smartly: you wouldn’t turn up at a job interview wearing sports gear. A court appearance is no different.
  • Be patient: there is a lot of waiting and hanging around at court. Expect to be there for the whole day. There will be long periods of time when it feels like nothing is happening.
  • Don’t leave: if you need to leave for any reason, tell your solicitor where you are going. Efforts to settle the case will continue right up to the minutes before you go into the courtroom (and possibly during the hearing itself). You’ll need to be there to give your instructions on any settlement offer that might be made.

4. Where Are The Personal Injury Courts In Northern Ireland?

Personal injury court hearings take place in the High Court and the County Courts in Northern Ireland. Usually your case will be heard in the court closest to where the incident took place or where the defendant is based.

Believe it or not, people have been known to turn up at the wrong court on the morning of their personal injury hearing.

So double-check with your solicitor to make sure you turn up at the correct court!  

High value claims (above £30,000) are heard in the High Court. It is situated at The Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast.  

Lower value claims (up to £30,000) are heard in the County Courts (personal Injury claims are not heard in the small claims court in Northern Ireland).

Your case is usually heard in the court closest to where the defendant is based or where the accident occurred.

County Courts in Northern Ireland are located in:

1. When Do I Get My Personal Injury Compensation Payment?

You can expect to get your personal injury compensation payment within a few weeks of your claim being settled, or less. Payment is usually made by cheque or bank transfer.

You’re nearly at the end of your personal injury claim journey.

The claim has been decided in your favour. All you have to do now is wait for the payment to arrive into your bank account.

Compensation payments are made shortly after a settlement has been agreed or court proceedings have finished. You’ll receive your payment (usually from your solicitor) by cheque or bank transfer.

Seeing thousands of pounds arrive in your bank account is a great feeling. It gives you a sense of security. You can get on with your life without worrying about the financial impact of your accident.  

For many, seeing the payment arrive in their bank account signals the end of a hard-fought battle.

But there are still some loose ends to tidy up. Receiving large sums of money can arouse suspicions with your bank or government authorities. So to avoid any nasty surprises in the future, it makes sense to ensure that your payment is fully compliant with the rules around tax and benefits.

Let’s look at tax first.

2. Do I Have To Pay Tax On My Personal Injury Compensation Payment?

No – personal injury compensation payments are non-taxable. But you may owe tax on a portion of the any interest payments you receive. Interest paid for delays between the date your case settled and the date you get your compensation can be subject to tax.

You don’t have to pay tax on personal injury compensation payments.

But for any interest that is added to the compensation payment you receive, the tax rules are different.

Here’s how:

  • Personal injury claims can take many months (or years) to settle. So most compensation payments will have interest added (usually at the rate of 8% in Northern Ireland).
  • Interest paid to you for the period between the date the accident happened and the date your case is settled is not taxable.
  • But – if there is a delay between the date your case is settled and the date you receive your payment, and interest is paid to you for that delay, that interest will be taxable.

Your solicitor (or accountant) will help you work this out and make sure you comply with the rules.

Let’s look at benefits next.

3. Will My Personal Injury Compensation Payment Affect My Benefits?

If you get benefits that are non-means tested, your personal injury compensation will not affect them. If your benefits are means-tested, your compensation could affect your eligibility. One way you can avoid any problems is by setting up a personal injury trust.

Benefits are a lifeline for people who are struggling financially.

Many depend on them to put food on their table each week.

If you are successful in your personal injury claim, the compensation payment will be very welcome. But you won’t want it to disqualify you from receiving benefits!

If you are a benefit claimant, and you suddenly receive a large one-off payment into your bank account, the authorities are going to raise an eyebrow.

They might ask the question: “now that you have a lot of money in your bank account, do you really need those benefit payments anymore?

And no, you can’t just decide not to tell them about your compensation.

Because not only are you supposed to tell your local Jobs & Benefits Office about changes in your financial circumstances, the defendant has to tell the Compensation Recovery Scheme about your payment. (We’ll talk more about the Compensation Recovery Scheme later.)

So it’s not as if they won’t find out. The authorities know about your compensation before you even receive it.

But it’s not all bad news.

If you handle it right, there’s no reason why you can’t keep both your personal injury compensation payment and your benefits.

Here’ what you need to know:

Personal Injury Compensation And Your Benefits

If the benefits you claim are non-means tested, you don’t have to do anything. Non-means tested benefits are paid to you no matter how much money you have.

Means-tested benefits are payments you only get if you meet certain financial requirements. If you earn a salary or have savings above a certain amount (or own property), you might not be able to get means-tested benefits

Here’s the problem:

Means-tested benefits have financial limits. If you exceed those limits, you are no longer entitled to claim the benefits.

People sometimes find that getting a large payment for a personal injury puts them above those limits.

And what happens then?

Exactly – they can’t claim the benefits anymore.

How Personal Injury Compensation Can Affect Your Benefits: Example

  • For the Income Support benefit, one financial limit is £16,000 in savings. So if you have more than £16,000 in savings, you can’t usually claim Income Support.
  • Before your personal injury claim, you might have had £7,000 in savings. You were under the limit, so you could get Income Support.
  • But – imagine you have a successful personal injury claim. You get a compensation award of £16,000.
  • That would mean that you now have £23,000 in savings – way above the £16,000 financial limit.
  • So…now you’re outside the limits and you are no longer eligible to claim the Income Support benefit.

Who thought that getting a compensation payment would cause so many problems!?

The good news is that there is a solution to this.  

It’s called a personal injury trust.

4. What Is A Personal Injury Trust?

A personal injury trust legally separates your compensation from your personal finances. The main advantage of a personal injury trust is that you can receive compensation without affecting your eligibility to claim means-tested benefits.

Trusts aren’t just for rich people.

Normal people like us can use them too!

A personal injury trust fund allows you to keep both your compensation and your means-tested state benefits.

It is a legal deed that separates your compensation payment from your personal finances. It sounds complicated but it’s not. It just means that when you are being assessed for benefits, your compensation money will not be taken into account.

A personal injury trust document will:

  • say how much compensation you have been paid
  • set out the reasons why you have been paid the compensation
  • detail the names of the trustees (these are the people who control the trust)
  • hold your compensation money in a separate bank or building society account

If you claim means-tested benefits, you should seriously think about setting up a personal injury trust for your compensation.

If you claim means-tested benefits, you should seriously think about setting up a personal injury trust for your compensation.

And even if you don’t claim benefits right now, who knows what is going to happen in the future?

Setting up a personal injury trust now will give you peace of mind. If you fall on hard times, you can apply for benefits without worrying if your compensation will affect your entitlement.

As an added bonus, a personal injury trust fund also keeps things tidier when accounting for your taxes.

5. When Should I Set Up A Personal Injury Trust?

You should set up a personal injury trust before you receive your compensation payment. That means when your compensation is paid, it can be lodged straight into the trust’s bank account.

Personal injury trusts allow you to keep your compensation and your personal finances separate.

If you set up your personal injury trust before you receive your compensation, you won’t have to lodge any money into your own bank account. The payment can just go straight into the trust’s bank account.

This means you won’t have to explain why your current account has thousands of pounds coming in and out of it!

But if you have already received your compensation payment, don’t worry. Even if you have lodged your payment into your personal bank account, it’s not too late to think about setting up a personal injury trust.

But don’t wait until this becomes a problem in the future. Don’t wait until you get a letter from the Social Security Office. This is one of those things that the longer you leave it, the more complicated it gets.

Get in touch with a personal injury solicitor now, and they’ll look after everything for you.  

6. What Is The Compensation Recovery Scheme?

The Compensation Recovery Scheme is run by the Department Of Communities in Northern Ireland. Here’s how it works: say you get paid benefits due to an injury. Then you make a successful personal injury claim. The Compensation Recovery Scheme can recover the benefits paid to you by deducting them from your compensation payment.

The Compensation Recovery Scheme exists for two reasons:

  • to make sure that public money is not used as compensation where someone else is at fault
  • to make sure that people who make personal injury claims are not compensated twice

If you’ve been involved in a serious accident, you’ll know how much it can affect your life.

It’s tough – both on you and your family.

Before the accident, you might have been able to meet your household bills each month with money to spare. After the accident, just covering the essentials might be all you can hope to do.

You might not even be able to do that.

It’s no surprise that many people who are injured in accidents turn to the benefits system for help with day to day living expenses.  

And it’s the right thing to to. After all, that’s what the benefits system is for – helping people when they are struggling.

But if you make a successful personal injury claim (and your solicitor has done their job properly), you’ll get compensated for all the losses you suffered.

So you’ll have received money from both the defendant and the state – your compensation and your benefits.

You’ll have been paid twice.

In those cases, the social security people can take back the benefits they have paid to you. If a deduction is taken from your compensation, you’ll get a statement telling you how it was calculated.

It’s not nice to see deductions being made to your compensation award before you receive it. But in reality, the scheme should have little impact on you.

If your claim has been prepared properly, and you claim for everything you are entitled to, the Compensation Recovery Scheme won’t affect you at all.

1. Can I Change My Solicitor During A Personal Injury Claim?

Yes, of course you can change your solicitor during your personal injury claim. You’re the client, it’s your claim and you call the shots. But changing your personal injury solicitor is not always a pain-free process; it’s not something to be done lightly.

Do you feel like screaming at your solicitor?

You’re not alone.

Let’s face it – as a profession, solicitors aren’t going to win awards for customer service any time soon.

People complain that:

  • their solicitor doesn’t return calls quickly enough
  • their questions aren’t answered properly
  • they don’t feel like they are being kept informed
  • each time they phone about their case, a different person is dealing with it
  • their claim is taking too long

If you’re annoyed, it’s tempting to think about sacking your solicitor and transferring your personal injury claim to somebody else.

It is possible, but changing your solicitor in the middle of your personal injury claim is not always straightforward.

So before you say “you’re fired!”, here are a few points to consider: 

What Happens If You Decide To Change Lawyers During A Personal Injury Claim

  • If you sack your solicitor, they are entitled to be paid for all the work they have carried out on your case so far. They can hold on to your file until you settle any outstanding bills.
  • Are you funding your legal expenses yourself? If not, you will have to make sure that whoever is funding your case (e.g. legal aid, trade union, etc) approves of your new solicitor.
  • The new solicitor will take some time to get up to speed with the details of your case (this will become a bigger issue the closer you get to a final hearing).
  • There is no guarantee that the new solicitor will be an improvement on your current one.

Changing your personal injury solicitor – it’s not an easy decision to make.

It all boils down to the most important part of any solicitor-client relationship – trust.  

Sometimes your problems are caused by a simple lack of communication. Although you’re frustrated, you still trust the solicitor to do a good job for you.

If that is the situation you find yourself in – you should get in touch with the solicitor. Explain what you’re unhappy about and tell them how they can improve.

Your solicitor won’t want to lose your business. Most of the time they will respond positively. Ironing out any difficulties in this way is the best outcome for everyone. But – what if the relationship with your solicitor has crumbled completely? What if you no longer trust that they are acting in your best interests?

Well, if you don’t trust your solicitor to get a good result for you anymore – that’s serious.

They will be handling negotiations that could have a lasting impact on your life.

If trust has broken down and you don’t think the relationship can be saved, you should move on.

And do so quickly – don’t wait around, because the longer you wait, the harder the transition will be. Make an appointment to see another personal injury solicitor now and see if you can transfer your claim.

Sometimes people are scared to tell their solicitor that they are taking their claim elsewhere. But avoiding an argument is no reason to stay with a solicitor you don’t trust.

If you decide to transfer your claim, you don’t have to tell your current solicitor yourself. Your new solicitor will contact the old one and handle the transfer for – you don’t have to speak to them if you don’t want to.

So don’t be worried!

Your personal injury claim is important. You should only give it to a solicitor who is willing to fight for the best outcome for you and your family.

2. What If A Personal Injury Claim Involves A Minor?

Personal injury claims involving minors have different rules to those involving adults. The main distinctions are the time limits for starting a claim, support for the minor during the claim and ensuring that the final compensation award is suitable for the minor’s needs.

A personal injury is an awful experience to suffer at any stage of life.

But for minors (children under the age of 18), the stakes are even higher:

  • they may have to live with the effects of their injuries for much longer
  • they might be vulnerable and unable to speak up for their own interests during the claim
  • they face unique physical and emotional challenges as they go through their teenage years and develop into adulthood

This is why the court treats personal injury claims involving minors differently to those involving adults.

The rules for minors add a layer of complexity to the personal injury claim process. If a child that you are responsible for is involved in an accident, it is vital you get an experienced personal injury solicitor on board as soon as you can.  

Delaying action or making mistakes can be costly. Dragging your feet could mean the child doesn’t get the treatment or compensation necessary for them to recover properly.

And no responsible adult wants that to happen.

So what do you need to know about claims involving minors?

Here’s the lowdown of the main differences to bear in mind:

Personal Injury Claims Involving Children

  • The minor doesn’t deal with their case themselves. A responsible adult (called a “next friend” will be appointed to run the case for them. A parent or guardian often acts as a next friend, as long as they were not involved in the accident.
  • A next friend can be removed if they fail to act in minor’s best interests.
  • The next friend must tell the court who will be responsible for costs if the minor’s claim fails.
  • Any offers made to settle a claim involving a minor must be approved by a judge before they can be finalised.
  • The court must be told how the compensation will be invested on behalf of the minor, until they reach 18 years old.
  • If the minor needs some of the compensation to be released before they reach 18, the next friend can apply to the court. Common reasons for this include accessing money for medical treatment or education expenses.

The personal injury system understands that children need additional support when making claims for compensation.

But whether a claim involves a minor or not, defendants will still deny liability and try to pay as little compensation as possible.

The child depends on their next friend and solicitor during their claim.

You must fight hard to secure the full amount of compensation they need to make a full recovery.  

3. I’ve Had An Accident Abroad. Can I Make An International Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injury claims involving minors have different rules to those involving adults. The main distinctions are the time limits for starting a claim, support for the minor during the claim and ensuring that the final compensation award is suitable for the minor’s needs.

Getting injured in an accident is bad.

But getting injured in an accident when you’re abroad is much worse.

Different languages, health systems and legal procedures all add to what is an already stressful situation.

After an accident, your first priority will be to get medical treatment.

And your second priority will be to get home!

The people who will be able to help you most at this stage will be your travel insurance company or travel provider.

But once you’ve arrived home and are back on your feet, you can think about making a personal injury claim, if appropriate.

International personal injury claims aren’t simple. They come with their own set of practical and legal challenges.

But if you proceed carefully, you can make a successful claim.

Some of the factors you should consider include:

Where should you start the claim?

Usually, you should claim either where the accident occurred, or where the defendant is based (or “domiciled”). This is important, because sometimes you can sue in a number of different countries (for example, your holiday operator could be based in the UK, but your accident may have happened in Spain. If you wanted to claim against the operator, it would be much easier to do so in the UK than in Spain).

How much will you be able to claim for?

The last thing you want to happen is to win a difficult international personal injury claim, and then find out the amount of damages you can claim for in that country is tiny.

Can you recover your costs?

If you win your personal injury claim in Northern Ireland, usually your legal costs will be paid by the defendant. In some countries, this rule does not apply. There would be no point in winning your claim, only to find that your legal costs are greater than the amount of money you are awarded. It’s worth checking your travel insurance policy on this – some policies include cover for legal costs if you are making a personal injury claim. And in some countries, local lawyers may take your case on a no-win, no fee style arrangement.

If you’re thinking about making an international personal injury claim, consult with a local solicitor at home in Northern Ireland first.  

If you decide that making a claim is worthwhile, your local solicitor will get in touch with a lawyer based in the country where you are making the claim.

The foreign lawyer will be able to advise on the legal issues to be aware of in that country, gather evidence for you and deal with the local authorities.

If you suffered a personal injury while on holiday, you should be entitled to compensation. It’s just that the practicalities of international claims make things a little more complicated.

But don’t let that put you off.

At the very least, consult with a local solicitor to see if a claim is possible. You might be pleasantly surprised.

4. Could You Be Eligible For Other Sources Of Personal Injury Compensation?

Making a regular personal injury claim is not the only way to get compensation for an accident. Government and other agencies run schemes to compensate victims of certain types of accidents. You should find out if your injury is eligible for compensation under a government scheme.

Suing the defendant in a personal injury claim – that’s the most popular way to be compensated for an injury that wasn’t your fault.

But it’s not the only option.

Depending on the nature of your injury or your situation, you might be entitled to compensation from other sources.

Here is a list of schemes that you might be able to make a claim from:

Other Sources Of Personal Injury Compensation

These are just a few examples – there may be other schemes you are eligible for.

Even if you can’t make a compensation claim in the usual way, there may be other options out there that you don’t know about. If you have an injury, get in touch with a solicitor with experience in personal injury law.

They’ll advise you about the range of options that are available to you.

To finish off…

That’s it for this guide on how to make a personal injury claim in Northern Ireland.

If your claim is finished, congratulations for making it through a difficult process. Fingers crossed you got the outcome you were hoping for!

If you are starting a personal injury claim or are in the middle of one, we hope this guide will steer you towards a successful outcome. Bookmark this page and refer back to it as you move through the personal injury claim process.

A few final pieces of advice: don’t sit back and watch as your claim goes on without you. Get involved, help your legal team and keep informed.

Talk to your solicitor, keep pushing things on, and ask questions. And most of all, keep your records and receipts!

Do all that, and the personal injury process will be a worthwhile one for you.

Good luck!

So what about you?

Have you made a personal injury claim in Northern Ireland? Are you in the middle of your claim? Do you have any feedback on this guide? Get in touch and let us know – we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Every effort is made to keep this guide up to date. Although it is not to be regarded as legal advice, we strive to make sure the information is accurate. If you are a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor and have spotted an inaccuracy, you can submit a suggested change.