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Personal Injury Claims Solicitors

Our specialist personal injury department in Canterbury, Kent has a reputation for excellent service for those who have suffered accidental injuries.

We have a focus on helping clients who have suffered injuries that affect their lives – having a bearing on the day to day activities of daily living and maybe preventing them from working, whether temporarily or permanently. We deal with serious and complex injuries such as spinal and head injuries; major trauma and psychiatric injury (including PTSD); we also deal with serious work place conditions such as repetitive strain injuries and HAVS (hand-arm vibration syndrome), serious tripping and slipping accidents, industrial diseases (such as asbestos related conditions) and fatal accidents.

We adapt our approach to the individual. Every case – and every client – is different. We aim to help you get your life back on track as well as to recover damages for the injury and losses you have suffered.

We are able to help if you have suffered physical or psychological injury in an accident, where someone else is at fault. Typical cases include serious road traffic accidents, accidents at work, tripping and slipping accidents, product liability claims, occupier's liability claims, fatal accidents, holiday accidents, sporting injuries, injuries involving animals and work related injuries.

We know that making a claim can be daunting, so our approach is to attempt to take the stress away from you, to assist you through the process and to help you as far as we can to recover from your accident.

Criminal Injuries

We are also able to help people who have suffered non-accidental injury as a result of a crime of violence, through claims to the CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority).

Initial interview

Our initial interview is free. We will explain to you the process of making a claim and what you can expect and give you a chance to ask any questions you may have.

We will also discuss with you how your claim might be funded.

Visiting you at home

We are happy to visit you at home in appropriate cases.

No win – no fee

If appropriate, in a personal injury claim we will act for you on a no win no fee basis.

How We Assess General Damages for Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity

This is generally done by way of obtaining independent specialist medical evidence, often supported by statements from yourself, your family, friends or colleagues. We like to obtain a “before and after” picture, that is to say what your life was like before the accident, and how (if at all) it has been affected since. Family, and friends or work colleagues who have known you for some time, are likely to be best placed to give an insight into this.

With regard to the medical evidence, what will normally happen is that we will initially obtain all of your medical records from your GP and from any hospital at which you have received treatment. At an appropriate time, and we will advise you of when this is, we will obtain a report from a suitable doctor who is a specialist in your field and who has not been responsible for your treatment. He will be entirely independent.

In many cases, it is likely that the Defendants will also wish to obtain their own medical evidence, and they will also wish to obtain your medical records to consider, and to pass to their own consultant. They (and we) may also need to obtain your work related personnel &/or occupational health or other records, as this can be relevant both to injury and losses.

The consultant in question will look at your medical records, and then examine you, before writing a report setting out the nature of your injury, your progress and treatment, your current situation, give a diagnosis, and prognosis for the future. He will also deal with “causation” – that is linking the injury to the accident, and not other causes.

The type of doctor required will depend upon the nature of your injury. Sometimes reports from various different types of doctor will be necessary, especially in a more serious injury case.

It is highly important that you be entirely honest both with us and with your medical expert. Never exaggerate:- for example, do not say that you cannot do something, if what you actually mean is that if you do certain things, you suffer too much pain after and therefore avoid it. If however you can walk to the end of the road, but only do so by holding onto a fence or a colleague, and then have to stop and rest before returning, say exactly that. Do not under play your problems, but do not overstate them either. Obviously, if you really cannot walk at all, then it is appropriate to say so.

Also, some days may be better than others for you. If that is so, then say so very clearly, but explain exactly what is a good day, and what is a bad day. Make sure your medical examiner understands clearly what you say. NEVER answer the question without thinking about it carefully.

Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions

The simple answer is yes, provided that you can show that the accident actually caused you some damage, and that it was not all due to a pre-existing condition. Many people have a previous history of (for example) back pain from time to time, especially those who work in a manual job. However, an injury may make that condition worse, or bring on new symptoms.

One of the things we have to establish is what is called ‘causation’. This means actually linking the injury complained of, to the accident in question. This is really a matter for the medical experts, but again it can be helped by a statement from you, family and friends, perhaps work colleagues, which show how active you were before the injury and how different you were after. It is, however, sometimes a grey area, and it is an aspect of the case often challenged by the Defendant’s insurer and/or their medical expert.

In most cases, and in all serious cases, it is likely that the Defendants will wish to obtain their own medical evidence, and they will seek to obtain your own medical records which they will wish to consider, and pass to their consultant. They (and we) may also need to obtain your personnel/occupational health and other records, as this can be relevant both to injury and losses, in serious claims.

It is very important to be absolutely clear what you say regarding any previous medical problems. It can be easy to forget problems you may have had years ago, but if you do have a medical history, it is essential to be up front and to mention it. The doctor will inevitably pick it up from the medical records anyway.

It is becoming increasingly common these days, for insurers of a third party to telephone or otherwise contact an injured person, with an offer of settlement at a very early stage.

If your injury really was very trivial, then settlement at that stage may be appropriate, but beware!

Once you have settled your claim, it is finalised. You cannot bring a further claim later.

Therefore if, for example, the insurers have telephoned you out of the blue and offered a sum to settle your claim, and you have ongoing problems, it would probably be very unwise to accept that offer. Wait and see how your injury progresses.

Taking a quick settlement of a small sum at an early stage may not actually be in your best interests.

Remember, insurers are not making you an offer to settle your claim out of the goodness of their hearts. What they are trying to do is to buy off a potentially much larger claim, if the injury proves to be more serious.

Generally speaking, our advice is that if you receive an offer out of the blue, do not accept it. At least, not without seeking specialist advice.

The Government is currently considering banning the practice of insurers making offers before a medical report has been obtained – a move that would be very welcome, in the interests of injured people.

Loss of amenity is really the way in which you are affected by your injury. For example, if you are a sportsman who breaks his leg in an accident, and cannot return to playing your chosen sport, then that is a significant loss of amenity. It may be more serious for you, than someone who does not like sport and is very inactive. Another example is someone who is a musician, who enjoys playing the piano, guitar etc, and who damages a hand, so that he can no longer play the instrument. That would have a more significant impact on him, than someone who does not require such fine movement.

One way of putting is that it is a loss of one or more of the pleasures of life which you previously enjoyed, and slightly more may be awarded for that, so do tell your legal advisor of this.

Generally speaking, in England and Wales, a claim must be brought within 3 years of the date of the accident or injury being sustained. This is known as the limitation period of the claim.

Usually, the date of the accident is easily established, for example a car accident or an injury involving machinery at work would be clearly known and documented.

Therefore, you should bring a claim by the third anniversary of the accident.

With a minor, that is to say someone under the age of 18, then the time limit only starts to run from the date upon which they reach 18. This means that they must bring Court proceedings by the time they reach their 21st birthday.

Please note that simply telling the Defendant or the insurer that you are going to make a claim, or visiting a solicitor, does not count as “bringing” the claim. What must happen within the limitation period is the starting of Court proceedings.

In some cases, the date of injury is not clear, for example a repetitive type injury at work may develop over a long period of time, and the symptoms may be quite subtle at first. Generally speaking, the date would start to run from your “date of knowledge” that you had sustained an injury, and that it may be related to your work practice (or some other situation). This might when you are first told by a medical expert that you have an injury that is  work related, but it is possible that you may know this prior to that date, so think about it very carefully. It may for example be an ongoing mild condition, which suddenly deteriorates significantly.

It is very difficult for a precise guide to be given in relation to this, so generally speaking the advice is that as soon as you think you may have a claim, even if you are not entirely sure, contact us for advice.

If you are unfortunate enough to have allowed the limitation period to have expired, it may be possible in some cases to ask the Court to use its discretion to allow you to continue the claim, even though it is out of time. There is no hard and fast rule regarding what will and will not be allowed, as every case depends upon its own facts.

Overall therefore, the general advice is to seek advice as early as you can, even if you are not sure that you wish to bring a claim, so that you know what your rights and time limits are.

Even if you think your case is out of time, obtain advice, to be sure.

There are some substantial variations to limitation periods in foreign claims and in claims arising out of accidents at sea, and in the air, so again, get advice early on to avoid being too late.

The amount that your case will cost will depend on how the case is funded. There are various ways to fund litigation. You may

1. Pay privately
2. Enter into a contingency fee agreement (also known as a ‘no win no fee agreement’) or
3. Your insurers may cover your claim.

With all of these funding arrangements you are incurring costs, but the way that those costs are paid differs. There are other options such as Legal Aid which we do not presently offer and which has been significantly reduced in terms of its availability.

If you pay privately we will provide you with an estimate of the likely costs of the case and ask you to pay money on account of our fees throughout the case. You may be able to recover some or all of those costs as dealt with in the question below.

You could enter into a contingency fee agreement (also known as a no win no fee agreement) with the firm. This type of arrangement involves you making no payment for our fees during the case. If you win the case then we would be paid our fees from the damages, and an agreed success fee. The success fee would be agreed before hand and would represent the risk to our firm of taking on the case on the basis that if we don’t win you don’t have to pay. There are variations of CFA agreements where it is partly private paying and partly no win no fee which we can discuss with you.

The level of costs that you will incur depends on the complexity of the case and whether the case proceeds to a trial or whether it settles beforehand. Some disputes settle after an initial letter or telephone call, whereas others proceed to trial. It is preferable to resolve your dispute as soon as possible and at as little cost to you as possible.

We would charge an hourly rate and would provide you with an estimate for the amount of time which we consider will be spent on your case. Each case differs and we would need to consider your specific case before providing you with an estimate of costs.

You may well not have to go to Court. The emphasis these days is very much on trying to resolve issues without having to issue proceedings. Even when proceedings are issued, most cases settle without going to a final hearing.

However, there are always situations where it is simply not possible to reach agreement or where your opponent will simply not engage in discussions without the pressure of court proceedings.

The experienced litigation team at Gardner Croft LLP will promote your interests rigorously throughout the process whether during the initial correspondence, any subsequent negotiations or mediation or in court proceedings.

The valuation of a claim for damages is quite complex in some cases, and in general terms, the objective is that an injured person should be put back in a position he or she was prior to the accident, so far as money will allow. Obviously, some injuries are so severe that no amount of money can compensate, and it has to be acknowledged that generally speaking, damages for actual personal injury is relatively modest.

There are however three main heads of claim which arise in a personal injury claim, and which can be summarised as follows:

1. General damages
This is compensation purely for the actual injury, not financial losses. There is no hard and fast rule that any given injury will be worth a set amount, as it will depend upon the severity of the injury, and how it affects the individual. Everyone is different. This is generally calculated by reference to medical reports, possibly supplemented by additional information in the form of a statement from you and/or friends or family, regarding the impact the accident has had. You will also be assessed by reference to reported cases, where the Court has approved or awarded damages for similar type injury. Also, there is a publication called the Judicial College Guidelines which gives an outline of the type of award which may be expected in different types of injury cases. Do not be surprised that we cannot give you a settlement figure at the outset.

2. Special Damages
This is an award for actual financial loss incurred already. Usually, it involves lost earnings, but may also involve travel costs, medication, medical and other treatment, equipment, paying for care, domestic or other help, and so forth. It is for money that has actually been spent.

It is highly advisable to keep not only a running list of expenses incurred, but also receipts wherever possible. It is for you to prove your case, not for the Defendant’s to disprove it. If you have frequent trips, for example to the hospital, doctor, physiotherapist or similar, keep a list of the dates of any visits, and the mileage and expense involved (including parking), or bus/taxi/rail fares. It is easy to forget with the passage of time.

If you are self-employed and lose a verbal contract because you are not fit, get the person who was going to employ you to put it in writing, with as much detail as possible. Likewise, if you were about to start a job at a higher wage, but lost the opportunity, get that prospective employer to put in writing what the job was, how much it paid, extras, etc. Generally speaking, people are willing to help at the beginning; with the passage of time however, they become less inclined to do so.

3. Future Loss
In some cases, the injury is sufficiently severe to prevent you from returning to work, or may perhaps require you to take a lower paid job or work less hours. Also, in serious cases, you may require further medical treatment, equipment (for example wheelchair or similar) and long term care or domestic or other help (such as DIY, Gardening etc)

Additionally, although it is not a major head of claim, you may be entitled to claim some interest for losses incurred. Generally speaking the amounts involved are very meagre, and unless the claim is very serious, do not normally add a great deal to your compensation.

Naturally, if you are off work for a long period of time, or have to undergo prolonged medical treatments, buy equipment and so forth, this can strain the finances to the limit.

If your claim is disputed by the Defendant’s insurer, then there is usually very little that can generally be done, although it may be worth asking advice on the subject.

However, where liability is accepted by the insurer, then in most cases it may be possible to persuade them to make an interim payment, on account of your losses. There is also provision within the Civil Procedure Rules (of Court) to make an application to a Judge for an Order, if the insurers do not comply.

It is fair to say that insurers generally do not like making interim payments if they can avoid it, but if you have, or think you are likely to have, severe financial problems, do mention it at the earliest possibly opportunity. Do not leave it to the last minute, as these things do take time to put into effect.

To make a formal application to the Court, you must have a written admission of liability, or a Judgement from the Court, in your favour.

Also, generally speaking, the insurers (and the Court) will require medical evidence showing the nature and extent of your injury, and that it is related to the accident in question. Whilst the Court does not have to determine how you are going to spend the money, it is a very good idea to support a request for interim payment with evidence of earnings loss (payslips or a letter from your employer), receipts for items you have spent, quotes for things you are going to have to pay for, and so forth. Provide the information and documentation, in good time, and hopefully we will be able to secure some interim funds for you.

Obviously, credit for any interim payments made must be given at the end of the case when settlement is reached.

From time to time you will have to visit a doctor, or perhaps more than one doctor, in relation to your personal injury claim. It is fundamentally important to make sure that what you tell that doctor (or write on any form) is as full, accurate and detailed as possible.

In personal injury claims, one of the biggest problems we face is that when we receive a medical report, very often the situation is not fully described, or perhaps the doctor does not believe the patient. There are a number of reasons for this, and the following are some suggestions to avoid complications, misdiagnosis, or even rejection of claims of any type of illness or injury.

For all of us, going to the doctor is something of an ordeal, particularly so if you have suffered injury, and/or if you are suffering from pain.

To begin with, it is a very important to tell the doctor the whole truth, but DO NOT OVER ELABORATE OR EXAGGERATE.
Just answer the question simply, but fully and clearly.

Often, particularly in an interview situation, it is difficult to remember everything. Few of us have perfect memories; you may even be suffering from memory problems as a result of injury; or during the course of discussion, you may be led away from (and forget to return to) an important topic. For a doctor to assess and form an opinion as to diagnosis and treatment, he/she needs to have all of the facts.

We would therefore suggest that if you can, it is very good practice to make a list of all of the things that you wish to mention before you go. That way, you can make sure that everything you think is relevant, is covered. Be sure that you keep a copy of the note so that you can refer to it later if necessary, as a reminder.

It is fair to say that some doctors do not like this practice, perhaps because they feel this is contrived; however, it is your responsibility to explain your case to the doctor. If asked why you have written a note, simply say that you tend to forget things, perhaps because of injury, pain or medication, and wish to be sure your case is understood, and/or that you have simply been advised to do so by your solicitor. So, it is important to make sure that you mention everything that troubles you, but NEVER over elaborate or exaggerate. There may be a subconscious desire to make sure that the doctor takes you seriously, and this in turn makes it seem to the doctor as though you are over stating your symptoms. This will not help your case.

If the doctor feels that you are exaggerating symptoms, or simply not telling the truth at all, you may not receive a fair medical report for your claim, or the correct treatment; your claim may be completely undermined or even rejected.

A good example of this is that a patient may say “I cannot do…..” (for example bend over, lift, walk etc). For some, that may be perfectly true. However, what is generally meant, is… “I can do it, but if I do so, it hurts so much, and I am so disabled for the next day or two, that I try to avoid doing so whenever possible”.

This is very important. If the doctor thinks you are saying that you can never bend over, and are then seen actually doing so, then he is going to treat your claim with great suspicion. With any condition, it is important for the doctor, or whoever is being consulted, to believe your story.

The key therefore is to listen very carefully to any question which is asked, and to answer fully and clearly, but without exaggeration.

A few suggestions for a medical consultation, whether with a GP, a consultant, or a DSS assessor, or in relation to an injury claim you:-

a) Prepare a list of important points which you consider need to be mentioned;

b) Listen carefully to any question you are asked;

c) Give a clear account of any complaints you wish to make, but without exaggeration;

d) Take a friend or family member with you (if possible);

e) Take a note of your complaints ,and keep a copy of that note for future reference