The Personal Injury Blog

Why you should instruct your solicitor sooner rather than later

Most people know that they have 3 years from the date of an accident to settle their claim or start Court Proceedings pursuant to the Limitation Act of 1980. That period may be longer for claims including hearing loss, asbestos-related conditions, other industrial diseases and clinical negligence where the symptoms of an injury manifest themselves many years after the exposure that cause them.

We find that many clients decide not to proceed with their injury claim immediately after their accident as they know that they have a reasonable period of time in which to do so, sometimes for very good reasons, but that is not always the best way forwards for a number of reasons:

Everybody’s memory fades with time.

Clients and witnesses may forget key facts that are crucial to establishing liability for an accident such as exactly where they tripped over, the speed a car was driving at, the exact time and date of the accident, who did what afterwards and who witnessed it.

The street defect that caused their injury may have changed in size or been repaired.

In one case, our Jonathan Stittle went to see a client and visited the scene of his accident 5 days after it happened only to find that someone else had reported it to the Sheffield City Council in the meantime and it had been repaired so he could not take any measurements and the claim later failed.

Witnesses may be harder to contact.

They may change their phone numbers or email address, move house, change job, change their name or otherwise lose contact with the injured person.

Many clients have Legal Expenses Insurance as an add-on to their House Contents, Car or other Policy.

Many of those Insurers will not cover the costs of bringing a claim if they are not notified of an accident within 3 months of it occurring. When that happens, clients may have to enter into Conditional Fee Agreements which usually result in them having to pay up to 25% of their compensation by way of a success fee to their solicitor, whereas they would have kept all their damages if they had started the claim earlier.

  • If the claim is against a business or employer, it may close down, move away, go into administration, close down or become very difficult to trace.
  • The machinery which caused the accident may be sold, scrapped or altered (as happened in a recent case of ours) so an expert engineer will be unable to examine it properly if liability is denied.
  • CCTV of the accident may no longer be available as it is usually kept for a month at the most. CCTV is often vital evidence in establishing liability for an accident.
  • In fatal accident cases, the Inquest may have been concluded and your solicitor won’t have a chance to attend and ask questions of the witnesses, which is a once-only opportunity for assessing the prospects of a case succeeding in detail.
  • The law changes on a regular basis and if you delay seeing a solicitor, it might change to effectively deny you the right to claim or reduce your prospects of succeeding.

Our advice is to see a solicitor (and preferably one you are able to meet in person) as soon as possible after the accident or when you become aware of your right to claim. If you are hesitant about pursuing a claim, for example if it is against your employer, then the solicitor will be able to deal with many of the issues raised above, advise you fully and then you will be able to  make an informed decision when to take the matter further. We often see injured people who sensibly give us all the information we need to proceed with their claim and then, at their request, agree with them to write to the opponent at a later date. That often happens where the claim is against an employer and the client is in the process of changing jobs.

If you have any questions about any type of personal injury claim, please contact us on 0114 218 4000 or email info@tayloremmet.co.uk

Jonathan Stittle

Jonathan Stittle, head of our personal injury department, joined Taylor&Emmet in 1986 and became a partner a year later. He studied law in Oxford and Chester and has been a member of the Law Society’s personal injury panel since it was formed in 1994. For more information on this topic email jonathan.stittle@tayloremmet.co.uk or call him on 0114 218 4049.

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