As with any legal matter, it is always advisable to seek independent legal advice to ensure that you are properly represented and benefit from the expertise of a specialist.
After being involved in a road traffic accident, the first point of contact is usually your own insurance company, and you may also speak directly to the defendant (at fault) insurers. In the majority of cases you will then instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf as well, however we are increasingly seeing cases where the defendant insurer has offered to deal with the injured claimant directly, or recommend a company they have financial ties to. This is of benefit to the insurance company as they are able to avoid paying legal costs, but it also means there is a good chance they will pay less compensation to you too. 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).
Many insurers continue to make what are termed ‘pre-medical offers’ which means that they have offered an amount of compensation for your injury claim without first obtaining a medical report from a qualified expert. 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 (compensation) would be. At this point you will not know the full extent of the financial impact the accident will have either, or what costs are likely to be incurred in the future, such as loss of earnings, the cost of treatment, or care. None of this can be properly assessed so soon after the accident.
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. In our experience pre-medical offers are almost always pitched at a very low level and are designed to end the claim quickly, and for the lowest amount possible. Thanks to our expertise we are able to negotiate much better settlements for our clients, and consistently recover compensation thousands of pounds higher than the initial pre-medical offer.
A common worry for potential claimant’s is that they will have to go to court if they instruct a solicitor. This is very daunting for most people but the fact is that the majority of cases settle without the need to go to a court, and in many 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.