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Don’t settle too early when seeking personal injury compensation

Are you currently making or contemplating making a claim for compensation for a personal injury and the financial loss caused by a motor accident, work place accident or accident in a public place?

If so, you may be interested to know that where the claim for both the injury and the financial losses - such as loss of earnings, property damage, prescriptions expenses and treatment costs like physiotherapy or chiropractic fees - is for less than £25,000, then in addition to the compensation payment itself, all the compensating insurance company is required to pay on top is very limited fixed legal costs.

For example, in the case of a motor accident, this may be just £500 and for other types of accident, just a little more. In motor accident claims, the process requires only a cheap report from a general doctor regarding soft tissue type injuries. This limits what, if any, additional evidence may then be obtained. Bearing in mind that the medical evidence is used to value the case, this is actually quite astonishing

Because of the very real limitations imposed by the claims process and the limited costs which may be recovered, it is by no means uncommon for either legal representative, including the compensating insurer – in cases where they have persuaded the innocent accident victim that they can fairly represent their interests as well as having a self interest by paying as little compensation as possible – to get the claim settled as soon as possible. This minimises the amount of work done for the amount of fixed costs paid in return. Or if it is the insurer acting, to save paying any costs at all.

Quick settlement may sound great, but in the rush to get a brief medical report and then to settle the claim as quickly as possible, things inevitably get overlooked or otherwise missed. This results in the claim being undervalued and settled for less compensation than it is actually worth.

It is simply not possible for a doctor examining the claimant, perhaps a few weeks after the accident, to provide any meaningful prognosis for recovery. And yet, that is exactly what routinely happens. Once a claim is settled, it cannot be re-opened, even when an injury turns out to be more serious than was first thought.

It is therefore very important, save for those cases involving  very modest injuries where a full or near full recovery has already been achieved, that you ask questions before a medical examination is arranged and particularly before you agree to settle your claim on the strength of what may be an inaccurate or overly optimistic  medical report. The best course is to instruct a local solicitor who you can place your trust in to really do the best job for you in the first place.

David Peake is a Devon personal injury associate solicitor at Everys Solicitors. He is based at their Exeter office but serves the region through their network of branch offices in Devon and Somerset.

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