Do you need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A Guide to Legal Representation for Personal Injury Claims
The process of obtaining compensation for an injury is unfortunately not straightforward, and can be especially difficult without professional legal representation.
But if you are wondering whether you can make a personal injury claim without the help of a lawyer, we've outlined the process and some of the issues you'll encounter below.
However it is vital to be aware that if you start legal action against a company or an individual, and you are unsuccessful in your claim, you may be required to pay for the other side's legal costs regardless of legal representation.
Can I represent myself in a personal injury claim?
Yes, everyone has a right to access to justice. So if you are unable to find suitable legal representation for your injury claim, you could potentially pursue the matter yourself.
As you may imagine you can't simply turn up to a court and argue your case in front of a judge. There are many Pre Action Protocols that must be followed prior to the case reaching a court room. These protocols are in place to add structure to the process and to allow both sides to reach an agreement before undertaking legal proceedings (formally submitting your claim with the court).
Below is a generalised overview of some the steps that may need to be undertaken as part of an injury claim:.
- Letter before Claim or Claim Notification Form - Sending detailed information to the party you believe is at fault. Outlining the accident circumstances, your injuries, your losses and why you believe the other party is at fault.
- Submit Evidence - The other side or their representative (insurance company, solicitor etc.) may then reply accepting or denying fault (liability) and ask you to provide further evidence of your losses and injury. This may include vehicle repair invoices, evidence of time off work, treatment costs, witness accounts etc.
- Experts - Evidence from an independent expert will then be required to prove and quantify your claim. This expert evidence can be in the form of a specialist medical report, an engineer to assess how each vehicle was damaged or a machinery expert to confirm the work equipment in question was faulty. It’s likely that you will have to pay upfront for each of these reports to progress your claim.
- Valuing a Claim - You must attach a monetary value to your whole claim and present this to the other side. This value should include all your past and future losses as well as sufficiently compensate you for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity. This usually involves working through the evidence of losses, calculating your future needs and analysing previous case law and court guidelines to value your injuries.
- Court Proceedings - If an admission of liability or settlement agreement can’t be reached, then you may have to issue your case at an appropriate court. This process is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules which outlines the various steps, court forms, strict deadlines and orders that must be complied with. This also involves various court fees that you must pay upon submission.
- Trial - Prior to your trial date you must prepare all your evidence, organise any witnesses/experts who need to attend and then decide whether to pay for a Barrister to argue your case or do this yourself as a litigant in person.
- Settlement - If settlement is achieved before or after a trial, then the other side will pay you the agreed compensation amount along with reimbursement of any legitimate expenses (expert reports etc.) that you incurred during the course of making your claim. However further complications may arise if the other side disputes the necessity of your expenses, or the court awards you a compensation amount that is equal/less than an offer that the other side made before the trial.
- Losing a case - If you lose your case at the trial then you may be liable to pay all the legal costs of the other side along with their expenses.
What is a litigant in person?
A litigant in person is the term given to someone who goes to court to represent themselves without a lawyer or legal counsel (such as a barrister) to argue their case.
The Bar Council who represent Barristers in England and Wales, have created a comprehensive guide to representing yourself in Court which covers a variety of civil legal matters.
What are the benefits of representing myself?
Nobody will be better at explaining your injuries and the effect they have had on your life than you; however this opportunity can also be expressed in conjunction with professional legal representation.
You may also be able to save some of your own legal fees by not instructing a solicitor for your personal injury claim. But saving these legal fees (which are generally capped at 25% of your compensation) needs to be carefully weighed against the risk of under-settling your claim or having to pay the legal costs of the other side if you lose.
What are the disadvantages?
There are many disadvantages in attempting to deal with a personal injury claim yourself, as it can be a complicated time consuming process with many pitfalls, associated costs and risks. But the main deciding factors you must consider are:
- Making a Risk Free Claim - When you instruct a personal injury lawyer they have a duty to always act in your best interests. Therefore, through no win no fee agreements and after the event legal expense insurance, your lawyer will never put you in a position where you are worse off from making a claim.Whereas if you make a claim yourself and lose. Not only will you not be compensated for your injury, but you'll also be in a much worst financial position as you will have paid out for experts, court fees and the other side's legal costs.
- The Value of Your Claim - How will you assign a value your claim? What's your injury actually worth? Have you calculated your future loss of earnings, ongoing treatment costs, lost gym membership, cost of your family helping you around the house etc.Handling an injury claim yourself may save you a few hundred pounds in legal fees, but what if you end up grossly under-settling your own claim by thousands?
- Specialists in the field of Personal Injury Law - If you attempt to handle an injury claim yourself, you will be up against insurance companies and defendant solicitors whose only purpose is to prove their client isn't liable for your injury and/or to settle for the lowest possible amount. It isn't a level paying field.By instructing your own specialist legal representation, you'll be giving your claim the best chance for success. Your lawyer will have the experience and skills to counter any defendant arguments, tactics or case law that they may present.
The best way to deal with a personal injury claim
Whilst it is possible to handle a compensation claim yourself, it is strongly advised to seek specialist legal advice and instruct a personal injury lawyer to act on your behalf.
Initial advice can be obtained with no obligation and if you have a potential claim, you'll be able to pursue it risk free under a no win no fee arrangement.
If you'd like to find out more about the process of making a claim, please get in touch as we'll be happy to assist.
Martyn Gilbert is the Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors in Chesterfield. Martyn has worked in the legal industry for over 17 years developing systems and processes to assist lawyers in efficiently handling injury compensation claims.