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Personal Injury Claims Information

From 30 April, 2010, there is a new streamlined process for processing and handling personal injury claims for Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs).

Chris Lodge, who sits on both the Motoring Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) Management Committee and represents MASS on Ministry of Justice and Law Society working parties relating the many reforms in personal injury being introduced in 2010, and is the solicitor in charge of Kaslers' Road Traffic Accident department, explains how the new rules will affect simple injury claims.

New On-Line Process for Motoring-Related Personal Injury Claims

If you have been hurt in a road accident, the last thing you want is a long drawn out legal process. Fortunately in most cases from now on, a new, much faster process will apply.

With effect technically from 30 April 2010, a completely new process for road accident injury claims becomes compulsory and where the insurer of the driver responsible for the accident admits liability immediately, the claim should normally be finalised in a matter of a few months, where recovery is swift.

Here's how it works

Stage 1

First, the injured person or their Personal Injury lawyer will have to email a very detailed Claim Notification Form to the insurers via a central portal operated by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Once they have received the form, the insurers have only fifteen business days to state whether or not they accept liability. If they do and comply with certain other time limits, the new procedure will apply. The insurers will benefit because the legal costs they have to pay will be substantially reduced and the injured person will benefit from a simpler and faster process.

Stage 2

If the injured person owns the car driven in the accident, then their Personal Injury solicitor will probably arrange for either the repairs, or an inspection and valuation if the vehicle is a beyond repair. In regard to personal injuries, the lawyer will arrange to have the person assessed for treatment and an examination by an independent medical practitioner who will prepare a medical report in a prescribed PDF format. This will cover the extent of the injuries and their anticipated ongoing effects on such matters as employment and curtailment of lifestyle.

This report, together with further details of the claim, must be uploaded via the portal to the other driver's insurers within fifteen business days of it being approved by the Claimant.

The Final Settlement Pack

When the case is ready to settle, the lawyer must discuss and agree with the client the amount of compensation to be sought. It must be a realistic figure based on the solicitor's knowledge and experience in personal injury work. The RTA compensation claim, together with a list of the injured person's out of pocket expenses, will then be submitted electronically through the portal to the other driver's insurers in the form of what is known as a Settlement Pack

The insurers then have a further fifteen business days either to agree to pay the amount sought or make a counter offer. After that a further twenty business days are allowed to enable negotiations to continue.

The Interim Settlement Pack

If the medical report indicates that further medical evidence may be needed at a later date before the claim should be settled, the Claimant's solicitor should ask for a payment on account of the claim of £1,000.00, which cannot be refused. (A greater amount can be sought where valid reasons are provided). The claims process is then put on hold until they can produce the final medical evidence at which point the Final Settlement process is followed.

What happens if the claim leaves the process?

If the insurers do not agree liability; miss the time limits described above; deny that the symptoms referred to in the medical report were caused by the accident; or if fraud is alleged, the claim leaves the new process and the matter is then handled as now with a more lengthy and costly procedure.

Generally, it will be in the interest of insurers to ensure that the claim remains in the new process as the legal fees they will have to pay, if the claim succeeds, will be much higher.

What happens if the value of the claim cannot be agreed?

Stage 3

If there is an unresolved dispute over the personal injury claim value, it remains in the new process, but the insurers must pay the whole the amount of their last offer and Court proceedings are then issued. These can take the form of an oral hearing, or (if both sides agree) by means of detailed written documentation sent to the court so that the value of the claim can be determined by the District Judge.

Whilst the District Judge will know that settlement offers have been made by both sides, the amount of those offers will be kept in a sealed envelope until after the amount awarded to the Claimant has been decided by the Court.

It is very important for the Claimant to be properly advised as to the value of any offer made on their behalf because if the District Judge awards more than the insurer's highest offer, the insurer must pay both side's legal fees of the Stage 3 process, plus the court fees. On the other hand, if the amount awarded is less than that offered by the insurers in Stage 2, the injured person will be liable for the costs of both sides of the Stage 3 process. Plainly, it is essential that the injured person's lawyer has ensured that they have adequate legal protection (or legal expenses insurance as it is otherwise known) to cover them in case this happens and that the legal expenses insurers have agreed with the lawyer's recommendation that the claim proceeds into Stage 3.

Getting proper legal advice

A final word of warning... Generally the new process will be far better for accident victims than is the case at present as both sides are both obliged and incentivised to proceed very quickly. However there is the risk that, because the legal fees will be much less, shortcuts may be taken by legal representatives. The Claimant may even advised to accept offers that are in reality well below the true value because solicitors will receive no additional payment for the extra work put in, or the additional time necessary to pursue claims through to conclusion at a more appropriate time.

Chris Lodge has specialised as a Road Traffic Accident Solicitor for over 25 years and represented MASS on a Ministry of Justice working party testing and piloting the electronic notification form described above.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by Motor Trades Ltd.

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