Personal injury claims
Forensic accountants are often hired by claimants, solicitors and defendants to help settle personal injury claims.
If you injure yourself in an accident that happened as a result of another person or organisation's negligence, you may be entitled to receive a sum of money. This sum of money is known as 'compensation' and you receive it by making a personal injury claim.
A forensic accountant's job is to assess the extent of the financial loss sustained as a result of a personal injury. This financial examination is carried out in order to determine the level of compensation that can be justifiably awarded to the claimant. Put simply, a forensic accountant determines how much money the injured person deserves to claim from the accused.
Forensic accountants are usually hired for more complex cases, when a higher level of expertise is required to assess very complicated financial situations.
Making a personal injury claim for the first time can be stressful and confusing. You may have a lot of questions, such as - what kind of injuries can I claim for? Who do I make my claim to? How much compensation do I deserve? Will it cost me to make a claim? This page aims to answer any queries you might have, and to introduce you to forensic accounting and personal injury claims.
What is a personal injury?
A 'personal injury' is, as the name suggests, an injury sustained on the human body or mind - as opposed to damage to property or other material possessions. The term 'personal injury' is specifically used in a legal context when an injury is sustained as a result of another person or organisation's negligence.
Causes of personal injury
A personal injury can be either physical or psychological. Some of the more common causes of personal injury include:
- Traffic accident - If another driver makes a mistake and crashes into you and inflicts a personal injury, they may be required to pay you compensation.
- Heavy workload - If a boss or manager gives you an unreasonable workload, you may find yourself suffering psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, insomnia etc. from the stress. These all count as personal injuries that may be legally compensated.
- Discrimination or harassment in workplace - Psychological problems are often a result of bullying in the workplace, whether sexism, racism or any other form of prejudice. Mental health problems sustained in this way can be compensated.
- Faulty goods or services - You can claim compensation for any damaged product or service that causes you harm, e.g. faulty gym equipment causing sprained ankles, broken bones etc.
Personal injury law
Before you make a personal injury claim, it may benefit you to know a little about personal injury law.
Personal injury claims are assessed according to a kind of law known as tort law. Tort law is a branch of civil law. Civil law is based on the idea that everyone in the UK has a duty of care for every other citizen. This is known as our 'civic duty' and includes things like reporting crimes, helping those in danger, jury duty and registering to vote. When breeching a civic duty causes harm to another, the victim may be entitled to claim compensation.
Personal injury law can be explained in three steps:
1. Civil law
When someone has a personal injury claim made against them, it is important to know that they are not being accused of criminality. Civil law differs from criminal law in a number or ways:
- Whereas criminal law deals with crime, civil law deals with disputes between individuals and organisations e.g arguments over land boundaries, disputes between tenants and landlords over rent or deposits etc.
- Civil law cases usually end with financial compensation rather than a prison sentence.
- Whereas defendants in criminal law must be found guilty 'beyond all reasonable doubt' before they are sentenced, in civil law, there only has to be a probability that the defendant is guilty for them to lose the case.
2. Tort law
Tort law, a form of civil law, protects individuals against interference from other individuals. Types of tort include:
- Negligence - This is a breech of civic duty e.g. failing to meet health and safety standards in a public place/place of work.
- Trespass - This is when someone enters another's land without permission, resulting in damage.
- Defamation - This includes libel (publically writing something untrue or negative about someone) and slander (publically saying something untrue or negative about someone).
- Nuisance - This is the act of causing trouble, annoyance or offence.
3. Personal injury law
Personal injury is most commonly caused by negligence, a type of tort governed by civil law. Personal injury claims are made with the assumption that the injury happened as an act of negligence rather than as an intent to harm.
Steps to make a personal injury claim
If you have suffered an accident that you believe to be somebody elses fault, you may consider making a claim against them. In order to do this, you are advised to take the following steps:
Step 1 - Consult a solicitor and/or a forensic accountant.
Step 2 - Agree a Letter of Engagement with your solicitor. A Letter of Engagement outlines the terms of your case.
Step 3 - The solicitor and/or forensic accountant will identify the defendant by investigating all aspects relating to the claim.
Step 4 - The solicitor or forensic accountant must then send a Letter of Claim to the defendant. The defendant must acknowledge the claim within 21 days and investigate it within 3 months.
Types of compensation
There are two main types of compensation you can claim for a personal injury claim. These are:
- General damages - This is compensation for any pain, suffering or loss of future earnings.
- Special damages - This is compensation for any financial losses that occur as a direct result of the injury e.g. travel costs to hospital, cost of health care (including private treatment) and the cost of hiring or repairing a car (in the case of road accidents).
Outcome of a claim
After taking three months to investigate the claim, the defendant must then decide whether to admit all liability or deny all liability.
- Defendant admits to liability - Both parties will discuss the situation to reach an appropriate amount of compensation.
- Defendant denied liability - If the defendant denies all liability or only partial liability and both parties are unable to settle on an agreement, then the claimant may wish to instruct their solicitor to issue court proceedings.
Court proceedings for personal injury claims
The idea of taking your case to court can seem a little scary, especially if you don't know much about court procedure. This section is for those of you who want to know what to expect during a personal injury claim court case.
Which court will I go to?
Your personal injury claim will go to one of two types of court:
1. County court - Any cases worth less than £25,000 will go to a county court. County court cases are dealt with by a judge or district judge. The county court also offers a 'fast track' system for any claims worth less than £5,000. This cuts the cost and time it takes to resolve low-budget case.
2. High court - Cases worth over £50,000 will go to the high court. More specifically, to what is known as the Queens Bench Division. The Queens Bench Division deals with larger, more complex compensation claims.
How long is the litigation period for a personal injury claim?
The maximum litigation period (time it takes to complete legal proceedings) of a personal injury claim course case is three years.
How can a forensic accountant help?
Hiring a forensic accountant for a personal claims injury could help you if you are:
- a solicitor
- a claimant
- a defendant.
Whether you are handling your personal injury claim or defense alone or on behalf of a client, a forensic accountant could help you to build a stronger case.
Because personal injury claims deal predominantly with finances, solicitors generally don't have the particular skills needed for more detailed financial analysis.
A good forensic accountant will have excellent attention to detail, an inquisitive mind, a great deal of legal knowledge and good experience of court procedures, along with all important mathematical ability. Using these skills, they will be able to show their client the strengths and weaknesses of the case objectively by conducting detailed financial analyses.
Forensic accountants can also act as expert witnesses and present their evidence before a court, unlike solicitors.
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