Settling Personal Injury Claims
The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled before they reach court. Unless your claim is extremely weak, it is highly likely that at some point you will receive an offer to settle.
So it is very important to understand how personal injury claims are settled and what this means for your case, if you accept.
Disclaimer: This guide outlines general topics you should be thinking about if you want to make a personal injury claim. But it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact a specialist personal injury claim solicitor for guidance on your specific circumstances.
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 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.
The process of settling personal injury claims can feel like a game of high-stakes poker.
Asking yourself this question will keep you focused:
Do I know the full extent of my loss yet?
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!
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.
The above article is part of our guide on how to make a personal injury claim in Northern Ireland.
If you are thinking about making a personal injury claim, you should get in touch with a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor who will help you assess the strength of your case.
If you have any questions, you are very welcome to get in touch.
All the best,
The Team @ Lightlaw
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 helpful, accurate and practical. If you are a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor and have spotted an inaccuracy, you can submit a suggested change.