The personal injury protocol was introduced in 1999 in an attempt to make the process of pursuing a claim more effective and efficient. It is also known as the ‘Woolf Reforms’. The protocol’s introduction was meant to prevent the yo-yo argument which occurs between parties’ insurance companies and solicitors, and make it harder for parties which are negligent to withhold information from a claim. All personal injury claims must attempt to follow what is known as the ‘Overriding Objective’. This basically means pursuing the case in a way which will allow the court to manage cases justly.
Step 1: A Letter of Claim
The negligent party/defendant will receive a Letter of Claim, sent by the claimant’s solicitors, therefore beginning the process of a claim. This document will contain details of the accident, and what injuries you obtained as a result of the accident. It is important to recognise that compensation can only be claimed for injuries which were a result of the defendant’s actions. The Letter should therefore clearly state the reason (or reasons) why the defendant’s actions have resulted in the particular injury/injuries. The Letter will also include the economic loss suffered.
Normally before the Letter is delivered to the defendant, the claimant’s solicitor will send a draft copy to the claimant to sign.
Step 2: Acknowledgement of Receipt
Once this Letter has been sent, either the defendant’s insurers or the defendant himself must confirm they have received this within a 21 day period. If either of them fail to comply with this requirement, it is possible for the claimant’s solicitor to commence court proceedings.
Step 3: Investigation of the Claim and a Response
Once receipt has been acknowledged, there is then a 3 month period granted to the defendant in order for them to investigate the claim and send out a response to the claimant. This response will include whether the defendant accepts he is liable for the accident. If the defendant refuses to admit they are at fault, then they will need to present a comprehensive justification why this is the case.
The defendant may accept liability for part of the accident, also blaming the claimant. If this is the case, the defendant will include the reasons why he/she believes this to be true.
Step 4: If the Defendant Accepts they are Liable
If there is no dispute to the liability of the defendant, the parties will then gather evidence for the claim. Evidence required will include evidence proving economic loss occurring from the accident, and medical evidence as proof of your injuries and the treatment plan which was followed.
Regarding the gathering of medical evidence, the claimant must provide the defendant with a list of medical experts which the defendant’s team then has 14 days to object to any of the names on the list. Once an expert has been agreed upon and the claimant has been examined, the claimant will serve the defendant with the report.
The expert will then be used in attempt to settle the claim.
Step 4: If the Defendant Does not Accept they are Liable
The claimant’s team will examine the defendant’s justifications. If they believe that the claim will not be a success, the likelihood is that the case will be dropped. If however, they believe that the claim would still be a success, it is likely that court proceedings would be pursued.
Why Follow the Personal Injury Protocol?
If either a claimant or a defendant commences court proceedings without following personal injury protocol, it is likely that the court will take this into account, bearing negative consequences for the party who chose not to follow it.