How long does a personal injury claim take
Discover the timeline for settling a personal injury claim and learn how long it typically takes to receive compensation. Get insights and tips today.
Definition of Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury claim is a claim which allows an individual to seek financial compensation for physical, psychological or emotional harm which has been caused by the negligence of another party.
Initial Stage of a Personal Injury Claim
Filing the Claim
When a personal injury claim is commenced, your representative will need to gather information from you including background matters such as the date of the accident, time of the accident and circumstances of the accident. They will require copies of any documentation you hold in relation to the accident, such as reports and photographs of any defect.
Investigation and information gathering
As part of the initial stages we would also have to investigate who the Defendant to any personal injury claim is. Contact will need to be made with this Defendant in an attempt to identify whom the insurers are.
As part of this investigatory process we will potentially also need to obtain written statements from other parties and where relevant at this stage expert opinion. Although generally expert evidence is required slightly later on in the process.
Once this initial information has been gathered the Defendants and/or their insurers are notified of the claim. How they are notified will depend on the type of claim which is being pursued.
Insurers and/or the Defendant generally have a period of around three months in which to investigate the accident and revert back to us with their position on liability.
If liability is admitted by the Defendants, we can proceed to seek to establish the value of the claim by obtaining medical evidence and collating documentation in respect of the financial losses which are suffered by the injured person.
If liability is denied by the Defendant, further investigations are required to gather evidence in support of the Claimant’s claim to set-off against the position being put by the Defendants.
At this stage whether liability is admitted or in dispute settlement proposals may be put forward to the Defendants.
If settlement cannot be achieved, where liability is admitted this is usually because the parties cannot agree on the value of the claim and/or because the medical evidence and/or financial losses have not been fully collated. Court proceedings will therefore need to be issued.
Where liability is in dispute your representatives will need to review the evidence before them to assess whether it is worth continuing to pursue this claim and that you have reasonable prospects of succeeding with the claim. If your representatives are of the view you are likely to succeed with the claim, the likelihood is they will advise you Court proceedings need to be issued.
Litigation Process and Timeframes
Filing a Law Suit
In order to initiate a claim a Claim Form needs to be prepared. In a personal injury case this is also supported by Particulars of Claim, a Schedule of Loss and medical evidence setting out the details of the injuries which have been suffered.
These documents are sent to the Court to issue the proceedings and once issued the Court will serve the same upon the Defendant.
Once the documents have been served upon the Defendant the Defendant will have a period of around 28 days in which to file a Defence to the claim.
Court Proceedings and Evidence Exchange
On the issue of Court proceedings the Court will then provide directions. This is essentially a timetable of how the matter will proceed to trial. The parties will have to disclose documents to each other. Both parties will have an obligation to disclose all documents upon which they will rely to the other party.
Witness evidence and expert evidence will also be exchanged between the parties.
This will include evidence of medical experts in addition to any other form of expert.
Once all the evidence has been exchanged between the parties, the parties will then proceed to prepare the matter for trial.
In a straightforward matter from the issue of proceedings to the trial date you would expect the timescale to be around nine to 12 months.
At any time from the issue of proceedings up to the moment you walk into Court for the matter to be heard settlement can take place. The parties will also consider alternative settlement methods such as mediation to attempt a negotiated settlement of a claim.
The length of the trial will very much depend on the extent of the injuries the person has suffered, the facts in dispute and the extent of any evidence which needs to be presented.
Personal injury cases are dealt with by way of a Civil claim and therefore it is only a Judge who will hear the matter. You do not have a jury in a Civil matter.
At the trial, both parties representatives will present their case and their evidence. You will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and experts of the other side.
Factors Affecting the Duration of a Personal Injury Claim
There are several factors that can impact the time it takes for a personal injury claim to conclude. These factors include:
Complexity and severity of injury
Where a person suffers with complex and severe injuries a lot of medical evidence needs to be obtained and this all takes time. It is also often sensible to await the recovery of some injuries and/or surgery before any settlement can be considered to enable the parties to ascertain how the Claimant may recover from the injures they have sustained.
Cooperation of involved parties
Where parties are represented by insurers and/or solicitors the matter can generally move forward in accordance with the timetable. Difficulties often arise where parties are unrepresented and/or are uninsured.
Availability of evidence and witnesses
The Claimant will need to be examined by medical experts, in some cases they will be required to see medical experts of both the Claimant and the Defendant. Availability of these experts can affect how long it takes for a matter to proceed forward, some experts required have waiting times of three to six months for an appointment. Prior to a matter being listed for trial, availability of all experts and witnesses needs to be checked to ensure all the correct evidence can be given at the trial.
Legal and procedural challenges
Throughout the claims process challenges may be made by the other party to the evidence and/or documents which are put forward by the parties. This can cause delays to the overall timetable of the matter.
Court and case load scheduling
The Courts currently have a backlog and therefore it is taking a substantive amount of time for matters to proceed through the Court process. In the past where claims would have been issued within a few weeks it can now take anything up to around six weeks for the claim to simply be issued by the Court. We are also experiencing extensive delays with listing hearings for directions and early procedural matters in cases.
Settlement of trial cases
In many cases personal injury cases are settled prior to a full hearing taking place. This is often due to the fact it can take an extensive amount of time, and costs are considerable for a matter to proceed all the way to trial. It will very much depend on parties preferences as to when and how settlement can be achieved.
In general a personal injury claim has a limitation period of three years. The Limitation Act requires Court proceeding to be commenced prior to the third anniversary of the day of the accident. Where Court proceedings have not been commenced by this date, the claim essentially becomes time barred therefore with any claim which is nearing limitation, special consideration will be given with a view to not missing this very important date.