We get stressed about money, reputation, safety, relationships, life changes…
Life changes are a journey. And they’re journeys that usually involve stress. By the end, you’re a different person. Both elements – change and stress – play their part in the transformation process.
Personal injury claims are stressful.
In this article, we’ll look at the nature and causes of the various stresses. Then, having considered these ‘problems’, we’ll list out the ‘solutions’ – the reasons why, nevertheless, you should go ahead with a personal injury compensation claim.
Getting injured creates its own acute stress at the time.
Often, there’s immediate severe pain. Beyond that, you have a loss of independence – with increased dependence on others. And also fears for the future: will you recover to full fitness?
Most people seek legal representation for a personal injury compensation claim after the acute phase of the injury is over. Perhaps after you get out of hospital or after you have become fit enough to return to work.
It is a recognised fact that the stress of pursuing a personal injury claim can aggravate the stresses associated with your injuries, sometimes significantly.
In cases of serious injury, it’s common to see sentences in expert medical reports such as: “I expect that the injured person’s symptoms will improve with the settlement of her current legal proceedings.”
A personal injury claim requires you to make a stand for what is right.
The process of making a claim is inevitably stressful because, as the injured person, you have to blame another person or organisation and make a demand of them. “You caused my injury…” (blame) and “you have caused me the following losses…” (demand).
In opposition to this, the other side will reject blame and refuse to pay. The blame rejection could be complete: “I did not injure you” or “I was not at fault, though you were injured”. Or it could be partial: “You were partly at fault for the accident” (contributory negligence). The refusal to pay can also be total or conditional. It could be: “I’m not due to pay compensation to you at all” or just “Your claim is not worth as much as you say it is”.
That’s an illustration of the fact that the legal process is ‘adversarial’. The system is set up so that the parties are adversaries – in opposition to each other.
Stress comes from the fact that personal injury claims are not a level playing field.
On the other side from the injured person, whoever is defending the claim is rarely the person who caused the injury.
Usually, the person you have to claim against is insured. In Scotland, even though the person or organisation who caused the injury will be named in any court documents as “the defender”, it’s almost invariably an insurance company which will conduct the defence. This adds to the potential stress because insurance companies have essentially infinite knowledge and experience of dealing with claims whereas this is probably your first ever experience of the claims process.
You’re a one-shotter against their repeat-player. It’s your debut match and you’re facing off against their many lifetimes of experience.
Different interests on each side of the claim create stress.
Your job is to prove what injuries you suffered and the consequences the injuries have had (or could still have) on your work and career prospects, your family and social life, and your leisure activities.
The opponent’s (insurer’s) aim is to challenge each part of your claim so that they pay nothing at all or at least reduce the value of your claim as much as possible. This could be because a particular claim is not linked to the accident or because something is not a valid head of claim.
These challenges are not unreasonable. We all want to keep our insurance premiums down, so insurers are bound to try to root-out spurious claims and ensure that genuine claims are valued at the lowest amount possible.
So, if added stress is inevitable, why should you go ahead with a claim anyway?
It comes down to the fact that it will be “worth it in the end” but also the fact that there are things you can do to minimise the amount of stressful factors in play as your claim progresses.
Here’s the ‘good news’.
1. There are things you can do reduce the stress generated by your claim.
If there’s suspicion or animosity between you and the insurers, that will make it more difficult to get your claim settled.
You can help yourself and help your claim by following medical advice and doing your best to get better. You should cooperate with your solicitor and attend for medical examination when this is required as part of your case.
It helps no one – least of all you – if you consciously fabricate or exaggerate any elements of your injuries or other losses.
2. Your case probably won’t have to go to a court hearing.
Most people have no idea what proportion of cases end with a Proof (“trial”) or why. It’s understandable to be nervous about going to court.
Some people are keen to have their day in court at all costs, but they are the exception in our experience. Most people are keen to avoid having to give evidence in court.
In fact, it is only a tiny proportion of claims which end in a “trial”.
Having said that, however, any sensible solicitor will prepare your case as if it will end in a trial. The benefit is that it focuses everything on what would need to be proved to a court, if necessary. It means that your claim is formulated with maximum persuasive force – and that gives the case the best chance of settling by negotiation at some point before a final court hearing with witnesses is required.
Sometimes you have to raise a court action to ‘get sense’ from an insurer. In a recent case we had, the insurer’s best offer pre-litigation was under £5,000. Within 6 weeks of raising a Sheriff Court action, the claim had settled for a sum more than 7 times higher. This was only just after the court had issued a timetable including the Proof date – and that was still more than 5 months away, at least.
3. You need to use the right to claim or lose it.
Claims for personal injury are subject to limitation. The typical time bar period is 3 years, though it can be shorter or longer.
If you don’t settle your claim within the limitation period or raise a court action before limitation to keep the claim alive, your right to claim extinguishes.
It’s a desperate feeling to lose the right to claim and that’s an ultimate stress you should do your best to avoid.
If you think you might have a claim, get specialist advice from a local solicitor as soon as possible and act on it.
4. Your claim will give you the chance to get clear, top quality medical opinion on your injuries.
Medical reports for personal injury claims are lengthy and detailed. They cover the nature of the injuries, your state of recovery and your prognosis (i.e. what long-term effects your injuries may have).
You get much more and better insight into where you’re at with your injuries and what the future might hold for you, for example, in terms of your ability to work to normal retirement age.
5. Your claim will allow you access to treatment to enhance your chances of full recovery.
You may need physiotherapy, for example. If necessary, this can be funded by an interim payment of compensation to you before the final conclusion of your claim.
Rehabilitation is an important aspect of a personal injury claim.
6. Your claim will provide you with full and fair compensation for all losses caused by your accident.
As we’ve noted above, the legal process associated with your personal injury claim will not make you better. But the process is worthwhile because it will allow you to gain the financial protection you need to protect you from the consequences of your injuries. Full and fair compensation is what you should be aiming for.
How we can help
We hope you’ve been convinced by these 6 reasons why you shouldn’t let the stress of making a personal injury claim put you off.