Under existing law, if you are injured in a road traffic accident (RTA) which is not your fault, if the injury element of your claim is “worth” at least £1000.00 in compensation, then you will be able to make a claim with the help of a solicitor representing you.

 This is because your solicitor will get paid for the work they do for you. Research has shown that claimants represented by a solicitor achieve higher compensation than if they deal direct with insurers or make the claim themselves.

An analysis of data provided by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)  members shows that once claimants gain legal representation the amount they are offered in compensation significantly increases.   In RTA claims valued at £1,000 – £5,000, claimants received offers which were at least 42 per cent lower when they were not legally represented This could mean the difference of an offer to an unrepresented claimant of £1730.00 as against settlement of £3060.00 once represented. (Source: APIL)

One of the most common injuries in a car accident is “whiplash”. This term is a bit misleading, as in fact, there is no injury called a whiplash. The term describes the mechanism by which an injury occurs – the head, neck, shoulders are whipped backwards and forwards on collision. This can happen even with a properly secured seatbelt in place.

It is a term that has had some bad press, with allegations of fraudulent claims and exaggerated injuries. There will always be a few bad apples in any context and unfortunately, personal injury law is no exception. But anyone who has suffered torn ligaments or severe bruising and soft tissue injuries caused by the whiplash action will tell you how painful and restricting it can be.  It is not necessarily a short term injury either.

The Government have been working on amending the legal rules that allow these claims to be made with representation for injuries “worth” over £1000.00, which includes a vast majority of whiplash induced injuries.  They want to increase the amount from £1000.00 to £5000.00. This means that unless you have an injury “worth” compensation of over £5000.00, you may be unlikely to find a solicitor able to represent you, as under the new rules, potentially being brought in in April 2019. They will not be able to have their legal costs met by the other side – who will represent the person who caused the injuries. You may have other elements to your claim, such as loss of earnings and paying for care, but these amounts will not count. It is the value of the injury that is important.

Some solicitors will almost certainly offer representation on a “damages based agreement” basis. This means that they will take a portion of your damages for your legal costs, as is common in the USA.  A figure of 30% of the damages award in total is about average.

Another option would be to go through the claims process yourself as what is called a “Litigant In Person”. It is not impossible, but might seem daunting to some people. You are also unlikely to be familiar with the Court and legal systems, no matter how much a Court tries to simplify things. It will just be too much for some, who may then be denied the right to claim for injury and losses.

The Defendant, the person who crashed into you, will almost certainly be represented by solicitors and barristers appointed by their insurers. This is another option for you. If your car or house insurance will give you legal expenses cover for a small extra fee, it is likely to be worth it when you need it.

So watch this space. If you think you might currently have a claim, then do take advice sooner rather than later.  If you wait until  April next year, you may find it difficult and in some areas impossible, to instruct a solicitor to help you with your claim.

For further help and advice contact the Personal Injury team on 01522 561020 or go to www.ringroselaw.co.uk.

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