What is personal injury?
Personal injury includes physical and mental injury or illness, and even death. Examples of these can be injuries you might suffer:
- in a road traffic accident,
- because medical treatment goes wrong,
- at work, including mental health illness linked to stress at work
Depending on the situation, being injured could mean putting your life on hold. In extreme cases it can mean facing a long-term change in your circumstances.
Sometimes people seek legal help to try and request financial compensation for their injury. They also may want an apology from the person or the organisation that they believe caused them to become injured.
What should I do if I have been injured?
There are practical things you can do, like seeing a doctor about your injuries. Make sure you keep a record of your medical appointments and any treatment that you receive.
Depending on what happened you may need to contact the police or report the accident to your insurance company. To make this easier it is sensible to gather all the information about the injury at the time it took place, or as soon as you can afterwards.
It is also useful to try and record names and contact details of people who saw the incident that caused your injury, as well as taking photographs. Whilst it is fresh in your mind you should write down all the details of the injury and how it happened, or tell someone about it and get them to write it down.
If an injury takes place at work you must tell your employer. They should have an accident book where the details of the injury can be recorded.
Are there time limits if I want to apply for compensation?
Yes. There are limits if you want to make a claim for an injury you have suffered. This also includes claims on behalf of someone who has died.
Time limits for making a claim can be different, depending on the details of your particular claim. It is important to take legal advice as soon as possible so that you can be advised about the time limit for making a court application in your particular circumstances.
The most usual type of claim in personal injury cases is for negligence and the time limit for this is 3 years - this means that you must apply to a court within 3 years of the injury happening.
Your legal adviser will be able to let you know of different time limits for different types of claim.
What compensation can I claim?
There are two types of compensation, which are:
- general damages – this is money paid to compensate for pain and suffering, and also loss of your future earnings;
- special damages – this is money paid to repay you for financial losses you have actually had because of the accident - this could include things like damage to clothes, medical expenses or hiring a car whilst yours is repaired.
Who can give me legal advice about a personal injury?
Lawyers often specialise in different areas of personal injury law. For example, if an injury happens because of a road traffic accident there are lawyers that can advise you. If an injury happens during a medical procedure in hospital there are also lawyers who specialise in clinical negligence cases. Depending on the situation and the type of injury you will find lawyers that specialise in different areas may be able to help. Initial legal advice for personal injury situations is often provided by a Chartered Legal Executive, CILEx Practitioner or a Solicitor.
How do I decide which lawyer can help me?
The initial contact you have with a lawyer about a personal injury matter will often be with a high street law firm. However you can also find law firms that provide legal services over the internet. There are different ways to find a lawyer for personal injury issues. You might:
- ask someone you know to recommend a lawyer they have used,
- search on the internet to find a lawyer who specialises in personal injury,
- be given a lawyer to use by your insurance company if you have legal expenses insurance,
- be recommended to use a lawyer by a trade union, particularly if your injury happened at work,
- use claim services provided by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (if injuries have been caused by violent crime)
- use a professional association to find a lawyer such as the: