In the last couple of articles I have discussed how a claim is processed from beginning to end. Following on from that I thought it would be a good idea if I spent some time over the next few weeks giving some more information about WHAT you can actually claim for.
Broadly speaking the damages you can claim for fall into 2 categories, General Damages and Special Damages. As basic definitions, General Damages means compensation for the pain and suffering you have sustained because of an accident and Special Damages means the financial losses you have suffered because of the accident.
I will start with General Damages today. The level of damages you receive is assessed by reference to the medical evidence we obtain on you. It will come as no surprise to hear that the extent of the injuries you have sustained has a direct bearing on the amount of compensation you receive. The more serious the injury, the higher the compensation you will receive. That all sounds straighforward until you consider that not everyone recovers at the same rate. Some people will take 6 months to recover form an accident whilst otheres will take 12 months, 18 mnonths or even longer. Recovery from injury is a very subjective matter.
It is for this reason that we consider that the time when we obtain medical evidence on you is crucial and needs to be obtained at a time when it is right for YOU. If the report is obtained too soon then an accurate picture of how your injuries will settle cannot be obtained and there is a real danger that the prognosis given turns out to be inaccurate . If you rely on that report and settle your case and it then turns out that you do not make a recovery within the time period given by the Doctor then you will have under settled your case and you cannot reopen it and seek higher damages at a later date.
I come across cases all the time where people have started their cases off with other firms of solicitors, are sent for medical examinations within a few weeks, a prognosis is given and they feel under pressure to settle their cases when they are still having significant pain and discomfort. If you are a regular follower of the Ibbotson Brady website and blogs you will know that this is not our way. We take your case very seriously indeed and treat you as an individual. We keep in contact with you throughout your case, checking on how you are recovering, what treatment you are having and how that is helping. We do not ask you to attend a medical examination until we both agree that the time is right. This is YOUR case and we will deal with it for you in YOUR best interests.
We also make sure that the Doctor we instruct to examine you and prepare the report has access to all your hospital and GP records so that he can refer to those and ensure that his reprot takes account of all matters relevant to YOU. (This is why we will ask you to sign forms authorising us obtain copies of your notes)
Once the medical report has been obtained we then send you a copy of it and ask you to tell us if it is a fair and accurate account of what you discussed with the Doctor and if you agree with his conclusions. Depending on what the Doctor has said we will then discuss between us whether it is appropriate to try and settle your case at that point or wait until you have had further treatment and see if that helps resolve any on going symptoms.
Sometimes you may need more than one medical report if you have suffered multiple injuries where the opinion of Doctors specialising in different areas is necessary. If that is the case with you then we will make sure that we have all the medical reports available before we discuss with you whether we should tryand settle your case.
In addition to the medical report, if you have suffered any scarring as a result of an accident we will ask you to attend a photographer so that phototographs can be obtained of the residual scarring since these will also have a bearing on the compensation you receive. Occasionally (if the medical report does not deal with this ) we will prepare a statement for you so you can explain how the accident has affected you.
Once we have reached the stage where we are agreed that the time is right to settle your case I will carry our some research on the level of compensation you are likely to receive. To do this I take account of the medical report, any photographs, my understanding of how the accident has affected you as an individual. I then carry out my research using 2 legal publications known as the JSB Gudelines and Kemp and Kemp. These are publications used across the legal profession and are referred to by Claimants, Defendants and the Courts. They give me an indication of the level of damages other similar cases have settled for and I use them to identify cases as close to yours as possible so that I can assess the level of compensation you are likely to receive.
The General Damages part of your case is of course just one element of what you can include as part of your case. The other part is Special Damages and I will look at these in the next couple of articles. As ever, if you have any questions about an accident you have had, just give myself or John a call and we will be happy to help.