Should you settle a personal injury case without expert medical evidence?
I am often asked by my clients if they should consider settling their claim despite the need for further medical evidence.
Medical evidence should be obtained from independent medico-legal experts in order to fully investigate how the accident has affected the injured person. This should include details of the accident, details of the personal injuries suffered and the impact this has had on their daily life and ability to work and any ongoing symptoms. The medical expert will also be asked to comment on the prognosis i.e. when a full recovery from the injuries is likely to be achieved, if at all.
Medical reports and valuing personal injury claims
This is imperative so that the claim can be valued accurately and the injured person is fully compensated for their ongoing losses and future needs such as medical treatment and care.
Unfortunately it can take time to collate conclusive medical evidence as it is often the case that medical experts from different specialisms have to be instructed. Due to the nature of this task, I often find it is at this point that clients decide to settle their claim without updated medical evidence.
Where a client is yet to make a full recovery from their personal injuries and has ongoing financial losses, I generally advise them to wait until the prognosis period has expired before settling their claim and if symptoms are ongoing, obtain further medical evidence to enable the medical expert to comment further on diagnosis and prognosis. This is because if a client has not fully recovered within the prognosis period provided by the medical expert, they could risk settling their claim for less than it is worth and any potential settlement offers will not compensate for any future losses and expenses, which are yet to be identified.
What can be typically included in a claim for future loss?
Typically this can include following:
- Future earnings
- Loss of pension
- Future care
- Future accommodation needs
- Future aids and equipment needs
- Future transport needs
- Future medical treatment cost.
This list is not exhaustive nor will it apply in every case but indicates various possible heads of claim.
It is also important to note that once a claim is settled, the injured person cannot come back at a later date and ask for further compensation, nor could they ask for the case to be re-opened.
This does not mean an injured person has no option but to proceed with litigation. They do have the option to settle their claim without finalising their medical evidence.
I always attempt to provide guidance as to whether or not an early settlement offer should be accepted, however ultimately it will be a decision for the client to take. I fully advise my clients about the pros and cons of settling their claim without conclusive medical evidence and only enter into settlement negotiations once my client confirms that they fully understand the consequences of doing so.
Whilst it is difficult to advise a client as to the value of their claim without conclusive medical evidence, as a Solicitor I understand their reasons for wanting to settle their claim without finalising their medical evidence as this allows them to bring litigation to an end and move on with their life.