Compensation - How much am I likely to get?

by Rob Shipp

In an accident claim for personal injuries the question I am asked quite frequently is how much compensation will I receive? Whilst this is a difficult area on which to provide definite advice at an early stage it is possible to get an idea of the levels of the personal injury compensation award you might receive.

Valuing Personal injury compensation in England and Wales is not an exact science. In most accident claims compensation awards are negotiated between the person claiming and the responsible party’s insurers.

This will normally be by reviewing a medical report which will describe the person claiming and detail the nature of the personal injury. You would look at the type of injury suffered and the length of time the personal injury is going to last. The award is meant to reflect the pain, suffering and loss of amenity. That is the things you used to do that you can do no longer or that cause you pain or discomfort when you do attempt to do them. Ultimately if agreement cannot be reached then it is for a Judge in a court to decide.

More and more insurance companies are offering personal injury claimants a sum of money before any medical report or other evidence is obtained. These have been called "super offers" but more recently pre-med offer, i.e. before a medical report has been obtained.

They do this for a number of reasons but the main one is to save them money. If they can settle now for a sum of money they could be saving the costs of legal representation which would most likely include the cost of a medical report.

If a medical report is obtained then the personal injury compensation award is much more likely to be a fair and accurate reflection of a person’s injury and you are less likely to be under compensated. Settle early and it is final. There is little chance you will be able to go back to the other side if the injury turns out to be much worse than first thought or the injury affects you to a greater extent, such as you lose your job some time later.

Once any court action reaches its final stage there is likely to be a hearing which the person claiming personal injury compensation should attend. When considering their personal injury compensation award a Judge would review the medical reports that have been obtained and most likely the statement of the injured party.

However this may change for personal injury claims valued between 1000-10000 arising from road traffic accidents. From April 2010 it is likely that a new set of rules will come into effect that will allow for a Judge to just look at written representations by each party and the medical report before coming to a decision.

Currently a Judge would hear the injured party and then make a decision. Here is the crunch, no one knows what any one judge will award. Some judges may be more sympathetic to claimants than others, Imagine if the judge was suffering from the same type of injury as you.

This is why we tend to give a range of figures i.e from £xxxx to £yyyyy. Therefore going to a hearing is a gamble where no one knows the dealer's hand. Useful guidance can be seen in the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines. They are quite brief but helpful. All judges should have access to this book and most likely will review it and be referred to it at any hearing.

To try and narrow the range down we can look at previous cases that have been before the court where the claimant has suffered a similar personal injury and bring this to the Judge’s attention. That said there are often cases supporting both ends of the range of figures, so no real help unless one side is being unrealistic.

Ultimately it is for you to decide whether to accept or reject any offer made. Your solicitors are under a duty to ensure we act in your best interests, unlike the insurance company making any offer. So the best advice I can give is always seek independent legal advice for any personal injury compensation award. Don’t go to a firm whose details are given to you by the insurer as they are likely to be paying the insurer for the work and have a relationship with them.

Although, as your Solicitors, we would fight for the highest level of compensation for you, be realistic with your view of the level of compensation you expect. Values of personal injury compensation awards in this country are not as high as in some countries like America and we have to work within the rules and guidelines as set.

Instruct and trust in an independent firm of Solicitors such as Ross Aldridge and this should lead to you obtaining the right level of compensation in a reasonable amount of time.

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