Once your solicitor has established that the other party is at fault for your accident, the focus of your claim will shift to obtaining evidence to show that the accident caused your injuries and financial losses.
Evidence of injuries
To prove the injuries sustained, your solicitor will instruct a medical expert to examine the claimant and prepare a report. The purpose of the report is to confirm whether or not your injuries were directly caused by the accident. The expert will review your medical records to see if there was another cause for the symptoms you are experiencing and then provide an opinion setting out how long they believe it will take for your symptoms to resolve (known as the prognosis).
It may be that the expert cannot provide a final prognosis without further tests being carried out.
The type of expert instructed will depend on the type of injuries sustained and there may need to be a number of different experts involved. For example a person involved in a road traffic accident may have broken their arm but also suffers flashbacks and nightmares. Your solicitor would instruct an orthopaedic surgeon to comment on the fracture and a psychiatrist to comment on the psychological injuries.
Once all of the medical experts have provided a final prognosis on all of your injuries the medical evidence will be used by your solicitor to advise you on an appropriate figure for compensation for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity (known as General Damages).
Evidence of financial losses
The medical evidence is also important in terms of claiming for your financial losses arising as a result of the accident. For example, in order to be successful in a claim for loss of earnings, the medical evidence will need to confirm that your time off work is reasonable for the types of injuries you have suffered. You will only be able to recover reasonable financial losses.
In addition to this, the financial losses claimed need to be a direct result of the accident and your injuries. To continue with the example of loss of earnings, you can only claim for earnings lost if you were absent from work due to your injuries; if you were off work for another reason then you cannot claim for this.
You will also need to provide documentary evidence of the loss you have suffered. I have outlined some common examples of evidence that can be used below:
- Loss of Earnings – if you are employed, your solicitor will need to see copies of your payslips from 13 weeks before the accident up to and including the date you returned to work at full capacity. You should also provide a copy of your contract of employment as it may contain a clause that allows your employer to recover any sick pay paid to you as part of your claim. If you are self-employed, you will need to provide tax returns and profit/loss accounts for 3 years before the accident date plus the period of absence following the accident. Other evidence which could be useful in support of a loss of earnings claim are business bank account statements if they show a reduction in income and any letters or evidence which show cancelled contracts.
- Medication & Treatment Costs – you can claim for the cost of prescriptions as well as receipts for over-the-counter medication. If you have paid for private treatment then you should provide invoices or receipts for this. If you have a private health insurance policy you should provide the details to your solicitor as it is likely you will need to include their costs in your claim.
- Travel expenses – you are entitled to claim for travel expenses incurred travelling to appointments at your GP, the hospital or to and from treatment sessions. If you have used public transport you should keep the evidence of travel such as tickets, or if you have used an Oyster or contactless payment card then provide a copy of the statement with the relevant journeys clearly marked. If you have travelled to these appointments by car, keep a note of the dates of the appointments and the distance travelled and your solicitor can include a claim for mileage.
- Damage to personal property – if your clothing or other personal property is damaged in the accident, you should take photographs of the damage and keep the property if at all possible. If the damage can be repaired, provide quotes for the repairs or if it is not possible to fix the damage then provide receipts for any replacements purchased. You should be aware however, that you will only be compensated for the equivalent item to the one that was damaged; for example if your mobile phone was damaged and needed to be replaced you would only be compensated for an equivalent make or model. You would not be able to buy an upgraded/more expensive model and recover the full cost. Wear and tear, depending on how long you have had the items will also be taken into account.
- Care and Assistance – you can claim for help you have received from other people with tasks that you would normally have carried out yourself. For example, if you were unable to go shopping and a family member went on your behalf this can be taken into account in the claim. This is subject to the care provided being over and above what would normally be provided. This does not only include assistance provided by friends and family; if you regularly pay for a gardener to tend to your garden, you could claim the costs of extra work caused by your injuries. However, you should bear in mind that if you would have paid the gardener in any event and no extra work is carried out, these costs cannot be included. You should keep a detailed account of the tasks you required help with and how long these people spent helping you. As the claim progresses, it is likely that your solicitor will want to take statements from these people as evidence for this part of the claim.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and every claim is different. If you have a query about whether a particular financial loss is recoverable and the evidence you need, you should discuss it with your solicitor.
You should also be aware that it is never guaranteed that all of your financial losses will be recovered in full. If a loss is deemed to be unreasonable, not connected to the accident or if there is insufficient evidence then you may not recover the full amount claimed or anything at all; your solicitor will be able to advise you on all of this.
If you would like some more information about the types of evidence needed in personal injury claims and why it is important to instruct a solicitor as soon as possible after the accident, please listen to the latest episode of The London Legal Podcast.