Serious Injuries Claims Procedure
The below information provides an approximate guide to the progress of a horse accident claim involving serious injuries. However, all claims differ and will be treated in accordance with the particular requirements of the claim. Less serious injury horse accident claims are usually much more straightforward and usually settle within 6 to 12 months.
Day 1 – Contact with us following an equine accident (by either Claimant or relative).
Day 1 or 2 – We write to Claimant or representative with client care documentation A meeting / further contact will be arranged as soon as possible to discuss the claim, funding issues, horse accident circumstances and difficulties being faced that require urgent attention.
Within 2 or so days thereafter we will send a letter of claim to the potential Defendant / his / her/ its insurer. Investigations shall also be commenced, for example with the police, witnesses and so on.
The proposed Defendant / insurer should send an acknowledgement of the letter of claim within 21 days of receiving it, confirming that the equine accident circumstances and liability are being investigated.
Within 3 months of receiving the acknowledgment to the letter of claim we should receive a decision as to liability, that is, whether or not your opponent accepts that the equine accident was his / her/ its fault.
It may acknowledge that it was primarily responsible or liable for the equine accident but that they allege that you were partly to blame which is known as contributory negligence. Any such allegations will be fully considered and investigated.
In practice liability decisions are often delayed until, for example, following an Inquest or until an investigator’s report is ready. Such a report will not be available until the conclusion of any criminal proceedings should such proceedings be underway.
If liability is admitted by your opponent (or if we are of the strong opinion that liability will be decided in your favour, even if you were partly to blame for the horse accident) we will obtain medical records and then independent medical reports as soon as practicable from leading independent medical experts specialising in fields relevant to the injuries sustained. Such experts may have waiting lists of a few months.
Often we will agree with your opponent that in order to improve the speed and extent of your recovery, a case manager from a rehabilitation provider will be agreed and appointed to oversee the co-ordination of rehabilitation. Your opponent will normally agree to cover the costs of such rehabilitation as it is in their interests to do so (the greater the speed and extent of recovery, the less money it will end up paying). This rehabilitation is provided independent of any court procedure/litigation that may be ongoing.
With the more serious injuries a first medical report may not be obtained before at least 6 to 12 months after the accident. Repeat examinations and reports may well be required as it is often the case that when you first see the medical expert he or she is unable to provide a reliable prognosis as to your recovery.
Valuing your claim
When we have final medical reports we will be in a position to value your injuries by reference to recent awards in the court and which are used to form the basis of the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines for awards for General Damages (pain, suffering and loss of amenity) which is updated every couple of years.
It is important to remember that the principle of a claim is to put you in the same position as you would have been but for the accident. Obviously this may not be possible in cases of serious injury and as such financial compensation for injuries is awarded, increasing dependent upon the severity of the injuries. It is possible to put you in the financial position that you would have been had the accident not happened, for example by claiming money equivalent to lost earnings both past and future.
Throughout the duration of the claim we will ask you to keep a detailed record of information and documentation relevant to a claim for financial losses.
When the claim is capable of settlement from a medical point of view we will prepare a detailed schedule of your financial losses (past and future) incurred as a result of the accident. Once we have the medical evidence and detailed financial losses we advise you as to a suitable offer to make to your opponent in settlement of the claim.
We may need to take one or more witness statements in relation to your claim. We may also need to instruct non-medical experts such as nursing, care, occupational therapist, speech, physiotherapist, accommodation and so on.
If your offer of settlement is not accepted by your opponent a counter offer may be received. We will consider that offer and advise you accordingly. A negotiation process usually follows with a settlement being reached. This negotiation process can include round table meetings with your opponent’ s representatives or mediation and you may be asked to attend to give instructions upon any offers received.
Please also note that you may also be required to attend one or more conferences with Counsel (a barrister which we will instruct on your behalf and who would have conduct of the court hearing were a trial to become necessary) throughout the claim.
If no settlement is reached in terms of liability or quantum (the value of the claim) we may advise that court proceedings should be commenced. It is often the case that the value of the claim will take a few years to calculate. Because of this we commonly have just a trial on liability (whose fault the accident was and if it is a case of shared blame, the degree of blame to be apportioned between the parties) so that a judgment can be obtained and assuming it is in your favour, an interim damages payment received.
If a settlement is not reached then a trial should take place within 5 to 9 months or so of the court proceedings having been served on your opponent although delays can occur and a trial may not take place for longer.
There may be cases where issues of capacity are relevant (Claimant unable to provide his/her own instructions due to, for example, brain injury or where the Claimant is a child). As such it may be necessary to involve the Court of Protection and a representative would be appointed to act on behalf of the Claimant.
Please note that in order for us to recommend settlement of your claim we must be reasonably certain as to your prognosis (time taken to recover and the degree of expected recovery). This prevents under-settling of claims so it is in your best interest. We rely on the opinion of medical experts as to whether your prognosis is reasonably certain and therefore whether or not it is safe to settle your claim.
It may be that we can settle your claim on the basis that if there is a serious deterioration of your condition in the future you can return to the court for more damages. This is known as provisional damages. Also it may be that you are awarded periodical payments (compensation paid at regular stages into the future) to ensure that your damages meet your future needs and that you do not run out of money.
Each case is different and may take a shorter or longer time to settle. We will settle the claim as early as we can reasonably do so. Your timely instructions will assist the speed of settlement.
This is a general guide only. Serious injury cases have many variables. We will advise you in accordance with the specifics of your case.