If you have been involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault the likelihood is that the at fault (defendant) insurer has offered you their services. This might seem helpful at first, getting you back on the road without too much trouble, perhaps with a hire car to tide you over.
The insurers might then go one step further and offer to deal with your personal injury claim directly. They may admit that this is to avoid paying legal costs, but they will fail to mention the saving to be made on compensation payable to you. Independent legal advice is essential to make sure that you recover the correct level of compensation both in relation to your injuries (general damages) and your financial losses (special damages).
The Citizens Advice Bureau warn that the defendant insurer will not be acting in your best interest. This is because they are not independent, and clearly have a conflict of interest when dealing with your claim. The less they pay to you, the more they will save. The Citizens Advice Bureau also highlight that you don’t have to use a solicitor that an insurer offers to arrange for you; you have freedom of choice. You may find that your own car insurance company offer to appoint a solicitor for you, however this is likely to be based on their own commercial agreements, and not necessarily the best firm for you. It is always best to seek independent legal advice.
Many defendant insurers will make what is termed a ‘pre-medical offer’ which means that they have offered an amount of compensation for your claim without first obtaining a medical report on your injuries. This is usually very soon after your accident, so neither you nor the insurers will know how your symptoms may develop, and what the appropriate level of damages could be. Once settled, you cannot go back to the defendant for further compensation, so it is really important that you make an informed decision, backed up by legal advice. Without this, you are at great risk of under-settling your claim.
The other risk of instructing insurers to do the job of a solicitor is that they may fail to inform you of all losses that you are able to recover, or advise you incorrectly in relation to the level of compensation that you are entitled to. As solicitors we often find that insurers make very low offers, however thanks to our expertise we are able to negotiate much better settlements for our clients. We also consider all recoverable heads of claim and advise our clients accordingly.
Will I have to go to court?
A common worry for potential claimants is that they will have to go to a court hearing if a solicitor is instructed, however, the majority of cases actually settle without the need to go to court, and in some cases, claimants are not required to attend even if a hearing is to take place. Your solicitor can properly advise you in relation to this, but it is important to remember that a court hearing is a last resort, and this shouldn’t put you off bringing a claim.
If you have been injured as a result of an accident you can call our experienced team on 01616 966 229.
By Katie Plappert, associate litigation executive in our personal injury team