The aim of this article is to provide you with tips when considering a personal injuries claim and some practical information on how to properly understand and deal with your injuries. Most people get injured at some stage in their life. Often this is a fall at home or a sports injury. For those who are involved in accidents and are considering a compensation claim – whether accidents at work, road traffic accidents, falls in public places or whatever the case may be – then it becomes important to have clarity as to the extent of your injuries and to be able to understand and communicate this to your legal team. If the injury is going to have lifelong consequences for you, you need to know this so that you are compensated accordingly.
- Be smart on liability
By this I mean keep as much information or proof as possible about who is responsible for the accident. If possible, you should take photographs of where the accident happened. I want to see photographs of the cars in position after the crash – not zoomed in to a dent but an overview of the road layout and where the cars were. I want to see a photograph of the wet floor of the supermarket or the broken step in the restaurant. I want proof that the accident was the other party’s fault. Take photos. Keep dash-cam footage. Get the name of the nearby shop with CCTV footage so the video can be obtained. Get the names and contact details of any witnesses. It seems obvious, but get the name and insurance details of the responsible driver. Be smart. Get your proof together. This will help establish liability – who was at fault for the accident. The question of who was at fault is the starting place of all claims and is the first hurdle you have to overcome.
- Get prompt and appropriate medical attention
In most cases, the first port of call is a visit to your GP. Your GP may refer you for an x-ray, MRI or other appropriate investigations and, if appropriate, refer you to an appropriate specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon or physiotherapist. Follow through on the referrals and see the experts relevant to your injuries. Tell your doctor about all of your injuries so they can be treated appropriately. Don’t focus on the big injury as that may overlook injuries that may initially seem minor by comparison but may be more long term or chronic in nature. Follow through on the medical advice you receive – whether to consider injection therapy, surgery, physiotherapy, pain management, medication, counselling or other treatments. If you’re not taking the medical advice you receive, the insurance company will want to know why and will blame you if you are not recovering. Discuss your options with your doctors and agree and pursue the best treatment course for you.
In serious cases, the first treatment is by ambulance crew followed by A & E or other hospital department. If you have been discharged, then you have probably received appropriate attention from the necessary experts already or a care plan is in place. Keep their details and give them to your Solicitor together with details of the treatments you received. He may want to get a report about it. If you don’t remember their names, your medical records should disclose the names of the consultants who treated you. They should have written to your GP to update him on your condition so your GP remains a key point of contact and your main port of call in getting information and following through on your care plan.
- Understand your injuries
The more complex your injuries, the more medical jargon that is used to describe them. Every time I receive a radiologist’s report or an MRI scan, I get out my online medical dictionary and make sure that I understand every word in the report. If I can’t understand my own injuries, how can I expect the next medical expert who sees hundreds of people every week to read my huge file and understand my injuries? He’s going to ask me what I have and if I don’t know, he’ll scan the records and proceed as he thinks best. But if you know exactly what you have and what caused it, you are half way there. If nothing else, at least you will be able to remind the experts of your condition at the start of the consultation so that valuable time is not wasted reading your chart.
- Communicate how you are affected
There is no point suffering in silence. If you do not tell the relevant medical professionals how you are affected by your injury, they simply will not know. If you are in constant pain, cannot sleep, suffer with nausea due to medication, are unable to lift your child, unable to have a normal family life, have given up your hobbies because they aggravate your injury, then speak up and complain. Break down how you are affected by family life, work life, social life, hobbies and sleep. If your treating medical professional does not know how you are affected, he will not write it into his report. If it is not in the report, it must not be important.
While you must never exaggerate your injuries, pretending they do not exist will not make them go away. It will just mean you will not be compensated for them. Do not overlook how you are affected psychologically. If your mood is low, your feeling depressed, having flashbacks, unable to sleep then tell your GP. You may be having a psychological reaction to the trauma of the accident. This is incredibly common. You are not alone and medical professionals can help or suggest coping techniques, counselling or appropriate treatment.
- Keep notes and records
At the time, it may seem like you will remember the details of the accident, the treatment, the pain and so on forever. But memory fades. So write down what happens as it happens. This will assist your memory and serve as a vital source of information throughout your case. You can also keep all receipts and details of medical appointments and treatments in your diary and this will reward you and save you time and effort later.
- Ask Questions
Do not be afraid to ask questions. This is your recovery and your future. You are the person who is affected and nobody else will care as much as you. If you are unable to work then ask your GP or consultant how long he thinks you will be unable to return to work. If you are never going to return to work, both you and your Solicitor need to know this in order to plan appropriately. You may also need to talk to your community welfare officer and mortgage provider. If you do not know the likely outcomes, you cannot plan.
- Do your exercises
During your initial recovery you may not be able to exercise. If this is the case, make sure you reduce your food intake and get as much sleep as possible. There is no point putting on a load of weight while laid up on the couch. This will only put more stress on your injury and slow down your recovery. Once you are able to exercise, your doctor or physiotherapist may give you exercises to do to strengthen the muscles around your injury and to rehabilitate your joint. Keep moving to the extent that you can. The stronger you become the better you will recover. Once you have recovered, do not fall into the trap of forgetting about your injury. You will have a psychological inclination to protect the injured area. This will cause you to favour the other leg so to speak and will lead over time to the area becoming weaker. Avoid this by continuing an exercise programme indefinitely.
- Take Advice
Your Solicitor will have acted in hundreds of personal injuries claims like yours. Ask him questions. Listen. Take his advice. He will advise you well.
Even though these are only tips for people considering a personal injuries claim, I still have to say that it is not permitted to charge a percentage of fees in personal injuries cases. I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any queries regarding personal injuries claims please contact us by phone at 061 501100, email Thomas Dowling, [email protected] or get a call back by completing our contact form so we can provide you with further information or advice.