What is the Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer in a Case?
The role of a personal injury solicitor is many and varied, from gathering evidence in support of your claim to securing you the compensation you deserve. Below, we explore the role of a personal injury lawyer in more detail.
A personal injury lawyer…assesses the merit of your case
The first thing a personal injury solicitor does is to assess the merit of your case. In other words, a solicitor will tell you if you have grounds to make a personal injury claim, and whether or not your claim is likely to succeed. To make a claim, you must show that:
- You were owed a duty of care by the person/organisation at fault
- This duty of care was breached
- This breach caused you to suffer an injury
A personal injury lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident, before explaining what your options are.
You will be told exactly who is to blame for your accident, be it your employer, a motorist or another person/organisation. This is not always apparent, as people rarely admit responsibility for an accident, and others may even try to turn the blame onto you.
Then, you will be told if your accident occurred due to a breach of duty of care. For example, it could be that your employer failed to take reasonable precautions to protect your health and safety at work. Or, a driver may have failed to obey the rules of the road.
If someone else is at fault for your accident, and they breached their duty of care towards you, you will be able to make a personal injury claim.
However, this is not an easy thing to establish on your own. The criteria for making a personal injury claim is founded on complex legal definitions. Personal injury solicitors study the law for many years. This gives them the expertise needed to ascertain whether you are legally entitled to claim compensation.
By seeking the advice of a specialist solicitor, you can be confident that you only pursue a claim that is likely to succeed. This ensures you do not waste your time – and money – pursuing a claim of little merit.
A personal injury solicitor can also identify whether your claim may be rejected for any other reasons – for instance, because you have missed the deadline. The time limits for personal injury claims in Ireland is usually two years, starting from the date of the accident. There are some exceptions to this rule. A personal injury solicitor can verify whether any of these apply to your case.
A personal injury lawyer…gathers evidence
If you do have grounds for a personal injury claim, the next thing a solicitor will do is to gather the evidence in support of your case. This is a crucial stage of the process. Without the right evidence, your claim could be denied or undervalued (meaning you do not receive the correct sum of compensation).
A key piece of evidence is a report from a medical professional. This will outline what injuries you have sustained and a prognosis for your recovery. If you have not yet fully recovered, then this must be taken into consideration. You do not want to settle your claim until the true extent of your injuries is known. Your injuries could be more severe than initially thought, but if you have already finalised your claim, then it will have settled for less than its true value.
A personal injury solicitor will also gather any other evidence that proves you have been injured through no fault of your own. This might include photos of the scene of the accident and witness statements. A lawyer will carefully scrutinise all of this evidence to ensure that it works in favour of your claim.
It is also necessary to gather evidence regarding your financial losses. This is because you are allowed to recover the actual financial losses you have incurred because of your injuries. A personal injury solicitor can advise what losses can be recovered, and will help you collect the necessary receipts, accounts and other proof of damages.
A personal injury lawyer…liaises with the other side
Throughout the course of the claim, a personal injury lawyer will liaise with the other side – who for the purposes of the claim is known as the respondent. Your solicitor will inform the respondent that you intend to make a claim against them, and outline the reasons for your claim.
It can be a relief to have a professional carry out this correspondence on your behalf. This is especially true if you have a relationship with the respondent, perhaps because they are your employer or a friend. Such situations can be awkward, and a solicitor can ensure that the claims process remains strictly professional.
A personal injury solicitor can also deal with any correspondence received from the respondent. It is common for the respondent’s insurance company to offer a quick settlement of a claim. It is rarely a good idea to accept such an offer, as you will almost certainly be entitled to a greater sum of compensation than the one being proposed. Your solicitor can manage any attempts to undervalue your claim, ensuring you are not put under any pressure to settle too early.
A personal injury lawyer…submits your claim to the Injuries Board
Once your personal injury solicitor has collected the necessary evidence and put your case together, their next job is to present it to the Injuries Board. All personal injury claims in Ireland must be made through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), with the exception of medical and dental negligence claims.
You are allowed to make a claim to PIAB yourself. This involves submitting an application form (form A) and a medical assessment form (form B). However, this is a risky approach. There are some common pitfalls which could damage your claim. Personal injury lawyers know how to avoid these, but for those who aren’t experienced in PIAB claims, it may result in an error that derails the entire case. For example, you may fail to submit the correct paperwork, or submit evidence that is misleading. You might also fail to adhere to the rules that stipulate what format the documents must take, and the time frames involved.
By using a personal injury solicitor, you can rest assured that any mistakes are avoided, and that a strong case is presented to the Injuries Board. It also takes the pressure off your shoulders, leaving you free to focus on your recovery.
A personal injury lawyer…secures the correct sum of compensation
The Injuries Board will consider your personal injury claim and decide how much compensation you should be awarded. You do not have to accept this settlement. In fact, both you and the respondent are entitled to reject the assessment. If this happens, the Injuries Board will issue an authorisation. This permits you and the respondent to enter into negotiations.
A personal injury solicitor will consider the PIAB’s assessment of your claim and advise whether it is a fair reflection of your damages. Remember, you can only claim compensation for your accident once. It is therefore vital that you secure the correct amount of compensation the first time round. You are unable to request further funds in the future.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether to accept the Injuries Board’s assessment. However, your personal injury solicitor will know whether the PIAB has undervalued your claim. This happens quite frequently. Sometimes it is more beneficial for you, as the claimant, to reject the assessment and pursue litigation instead.
Your personal injury solicitor can make this judgement based on their in-depth knowledge of your case. Your lawyer will compare the extent of your injuries against those described in the Book of Quantum. These are legal guidelines in Ireland which suggest how much compensation should be awarded for certain types of injuries. Your lawyer will add your financial losses to this figure, calculating how much compensation should be awarded in your case. If the PIAB’s assessment falls short of this number, your personal injury solicitor will advise you accordingly.
Bear in mind that the respondent will want to pay you as little as possible, while the PIAB is an independent state body which does not offer legal advice. Only a personal injury solicitor can provide an honest assessment of the compensation on offer. Moreover, only a personal injury solicitor will be acting on your behalf – and therefore acting in your best interests. Given this, it is hardly surprising that people who use a personal injury solicitor secure higher sums of compensation than those who don’t.
A personal injury lawyer…pursues litigation if needed
If you do not accept the PIAB’s assessment of your claim, a personal injury solicitor will prepare your case for court. There are lots of administrative tasks to fulfil, with deadlines to comply with and documents to disclose. Your solicitor will do all of this for you, again working to put forward a strong case.
In the meantime, your personal injury solicitor will enter into negotiations with the respondent. Most personal injury claims actually settle before they reach court, even if the PIAB’s assessment has been rejected. This is thanks to the negotiating skills of personal injury solicitors who are trained to discuss your case with the other side. There may be a period where offers and counter-offers are made. A solicitor can advise when a suitable sum of compensation has been agreed upon, at which point you can settle your claim, confident in the knowledge that you have secured the right amount of compensation.
If your claim does go to court, your solicitor will manage everything for you. You may be asked to provide your account of events and a description of your injuries. Otherwise, your legal team will do all the advocacy for you, arguing your case to secure a successful outcome.
A personal injury lawyer…offers support, guidance and expertise
Alongside all these tasks, a personal injury solicitor is there to guide you through the process, and to offer their expertise. Making a personal injury claim on your own is a very lonely process. Most people do not have an in-depth knowledge of personal injury law, or the way in which a personal injury claim works. This is very stressful and time-consuming. But if you instruct an experienced personal injury lawyer, you have a professional to do it all for you.
A personal injury solicitor can also advise you for the duration of the claim. Sometimes, new evidence comes to light which could impact the outcome, or a respondent changes their approach. A lawyer can keep you informed on the progress of your case, suggesting how best to proceed.
More importantly, your personal injury solicitor is on your side. This kind of support is often very welcome for personal injury claimants, particularly if the other side does not even admit responsibility for your injuries.
While the other parties involved will want a quick settlement, your solicitor’s priority is to get you the help you need. This goes above and beyond simply securing you compensation. It also involves getting you the money needed to pay for further medical treatment, specialist care or equipment. Your injuries may have completely turned your life upside down. A personal injury solicitor can implement measures to get your life back on track.
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At Gibson & Associates, our personal injury solicitors work tirelessly to get the best results in each and every case. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us for a no obligation enquiry.