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For many people, seeking compensation after an injury at work can be a daunting process. It can be a stressful time as well, so we’ve put together a handy guide to help you through the process.

How much do I get paid if injured at work?

Answer: Okay, a very common question.  For some people, typically public sector jobs, their contract of employment states they will be paid sick pay whilst they are off, which would include being off as a result of a workplace injury.  Sometimes this sick pay will be limited to a certain period such as full pay for the first six months and then half pay for the next six months and then it stops.  For those workers whose contract of employment does not provide for any sick pay, they will only be Statutory Sick Pay, or SSP, which amounts to around £90 per week.

However, any lost earnings (both before settlement and for the future), plus interest, that are caused by being unable to work as a result of a workplace injury, can be included in a claim for work injury compensation.  These lost earnings must be reasonable though, so if you are medically fit to return to work, or perhaps light duties, you will be expected to.  If you are unsure about whether you are fit enough to return to work the best thing to do is to see your GP, who can provide “fit notes”, which can specify what tasks you are capable of doing.  Your employer should so a “back to work interview” when you return, where they discuss with you what you are and are not able to do.

How do I claim for injury at work?

Answer: The first thing to do is to find a solicitor who deals with injury at work claims.  These solicitors are generally personal injury solicitors because accident at works claims are a type of personal injury claim.  Like any professional, experience is important and so do some research to find out whether the solicitor has a proven track record with work injury claims.  Virtually all personal injury solicitors will be happy to have an initial, confidential chat about the case and then they will let you know whether they are happy to take the case on.

The vast majority of cases are run on a “no-win-no-fee” basis, which means that you do not pay anything – if the case succeeds the solicitor’s fees are paid by the employer’s insurance company (together with a small deduction from the compensation recovered).  Once the solicitor has been instructed, he or she will lodge the compensation claim with the relevant insurance company (all employers have to have employer’s liability insurance).  The insurance company will then investigate over a period of a few months and will then let the solicitor know whether they agree to pay compensation or not.  If they are happy to pay compensation then the law requires a medical report to be prepared by an independent doctor (i.e. a doctor who has not treated you in the past).

You will go and see this doctor, usually in a brief appointment, and the doctor will then send his or her report to your solicitor, who will go through it with you.  Provided you are happy with the report, your solicitor will then work out your financial losses and expenses (including whether your injuries will cause any further financial losses in the future).  The medical report and agreed list of your financial losses will be sent to the insurance company and then a settlement negotiated.

In some cases though, either the insurance company will not agree to pay compensation, or if they do they will only offer amounts that are too low.  In those situations your solicitor will review the position carefully in order to determine whether they can start court action on a no-win-no-fee basis.  This does not mean the case will automatically go to trial – very few cases go to trial; usually just starting court proceedings is enough to pressure the insurance company to settle the case.

How much do you get paid for an accident?

Answer: This is a very big topic. We have recently prepared a detailed guide on this topic LINK as it is too detailed to cover properly here. The short answer is that it generally depends upon how serious the injury is. For example, whilst a back injury that fully recovered in a year, and did not cause much If any financial loss, might settle for say £3,000, a serious amputation injury which leaves someone unable to work properly in the future could settle for £1 million. The largest aspect of most high value cases is that of financial losses.

If you think about it, if someone used to earn £40,000 a year but then suffers an injury which leaves them only able to earn £20,000 a year then that is a loss of £20,000 per year. Over 20 years that amounts to £400,000 (even greater when inflation is factored in). You are also entitled to claim for other financial losses caused by the accident such as transport costs, medical costs (the fact treatment is available on the NHS is not relevant so if you need surgery or expensive medication as a result of an accident then you have a right to claim those costs privately), costs of any equipment you may need, lost holidays, and many more – if a financial loss was caused by an accident it can normally be included.

How long does it take to receive an offer of compensation?

Answer: For more minor accidents around six to nine months; for more serious injuries and/or disputed cases it can often take over 18 months.  For those cases that are disputed all the way to trial there may never be an offer of compensation – that is why those cases go to trial.

Should I accept the first offer of compensation?

Answer: Very rarely. Most insurance companies deliberately make a low first offer and then drag their heels before eventually making a more realistic further offer (often only after court action has been threatened!). Sometimes though a first offer will be a very good offer. The author of this article recently dealt with a case in which the insurance company’s lawyer was refreshingly sensible and after an initial discussion made a very high first offer of £125,000, which the client was delighted to accept, so sometimes these things can be resolved swiftly.

Usually a sensible and fair settlement can be negotiated fairly quickly but on some occasions the defendant insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer; if that happens your solicitor will give you the choice as to whether to accept, alongside advising how much a judge would likely award at court. If a judge would likely offer significantly more than the defendant is offering your solicitor can then start court action to seek a larger settlement figure. For cases with a value of less than £25,000 the client often does not have to go to court so they can wait and let the solicitor deal with that side.

Alternatively, if you would prefer a quicker settlement, even for a lower amount than fair, you can instruct your solicitor to accept the offer, instead of starting court action.

What happens when you lose a personal injury claim?

Answer: Provided your solicitor is working on a no-win-no-fee basis (which is normally the case in personal injury claims), the case simply ends, the file is closed and there is nothing for you to pay. There are important exceptions though such as if the court throws a case out on the basis it was a fraudulent claim, in which case the judge can order you to pay the other party’s legal costs, which is why attempting a fraudulent personal injury claim is a very, very bad idea!

How long should an injury claim take?

Answer: For simple, minor injury cases, such as a “whiplash” type car accident case, these tend to settle in three to nine months, dependent upon whether the defendant insurance company makes a fair offer quickly or not.  The most severe injury cases, in which people can be left permanently disabled, with lifechanging injuries, can sometimes take five or more years to settle as a tremendous amount of expert evidence is needed and there are often fierce battles to be had with the defendant insurance company about the settlement value.

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