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Had an accident?

Need a personal injury solicitor to claim compensation?

Need advice to know where you stand?

Accidents and personal injury happen on the road; at work; tripping on the pavement; in the pool on holiday; in the park; through clinical negligence; by a product you have bought.

This site gives free guidance on UK personal injury law for England and Wales.

To find a specialist solicitor use Find an Expert

No Win No Fee
Information on "No Win No Fee" coming soon!

Further information on NO Win No fee can be found at:

Claiming compensation for personal injury - no win, no fee agreements

See also (below) Conditional Fee or NO WIN NO FEE

To find legal help, use Find an Expert

Please read the Disclaimer

The basics:

The basics:

Injury | Top
This can be either physical injury to your body or mental injury and is frequently both. It can involve injury to someone else if they have been killed in a fatal accident.

Compensation | Top
Money paid to the victim of an accident eg. for pain and suffering; loss of earnings; damage to personal possessions; nursing care; long term loss of amenity.

In a fatal accident compensation may be paid to the victim's dependants and possibly others.

Claimant | Top
The person who has suffered the personal injury.

Defendant | Top
The person or company alleged to have caused the injury.

Time limits | Top
The Limitation Act 1980 sets out the time within which a Claimant must "issue" ie start proceedings in Court. If any of these time limits have expired the Defendant may escape liability to pay compensation no matter how strong a case the Claimant has.

There are different time limits for different claims.

These are some of them:

1. If you are claiming for personal injuries of whatever kind or death caused by negligence of another person or body you must start proceedings in Court within 3 years of the date of the injury or the date on which you know of this (whichever date is the later). If you are unsure seek immediate advice from a Solicitor.

2. If your claim is as a result of injury caused by deliberate assault the time limit is 6 years.

3. If a doctor /health worker/provider has negligently caused you injury you must again start Court proceedings within 3 years of the negligent act or within 3 years of the date on which you knew you had sustained an injury as a result of something he or she has done to you.

Examples of when a time limit begins when the date the injury was sustained is not clear:


An employee worked in dusty conditions for many years.

As a result he developed silicosis. This man's damage began long before he knew of it so the 3 year period began to run only from the date on which he could reasonably have been expected to become aware of his illness.


In 1991 a community worker told a man that his deafness might have resulted from many years working in a mill.

He immediately went to see a Solicitor who sent him to see a consultant for a Medical report.

Did this begin the 3 year clock ticking?


If you need expert evidence to establish the cause of the injury the mere fact that you sought a medical opinion did not mean you knew of the cause of the injury.


A patient who deteriorated after an operation thought the operation had not been a success, but had nothing to alert him to the fact that he had actually been injured during the operation.

The 3 year period did not begin to run until the date on which it was discovered that the operation itself had involved a medical accident.

When does the 3 year period normally start?

It is calculated beginning with the day after the relevant day (usually that day is the day on which you were injured, but not always.) The 3 years ends on the last day of the period.


A minor | Top
A child under 18 cannot take Court proceedings themselves. They have to do so through their parents/guardians. The 3 year time limit does not begin until the 18th birthday of a child.

Conditional Fee (NO WIN NO FEE) | Top
The Solicitor agrees not to make a charge for his services if you do not win compensation. If you do win compensation you agree with the Solicitor at the outset that you will pay them a success fee ie. a percentage increase on their basic fee (not the compensation itself). If you lose the Defendant can claim costs from you. So you have to take out insurance against that risk at the outset.

Legal Aid | Top
Only available in a very limited number of situations. You must meet the criteria of income and savings first and use a Solicitor with a franchise to do that type of work. From your point of view the main types of case involve:

1. Clinical negligence

2. Claims where there has been serious wrong doing by a public authority eg. injury caused by the police in the cause of arrest.

3. If the injury arises out of a housing claim

4. If the claim benefits the wider public interest eg. it involves a new point of law

See the Legal Services Commission web site: www.legalservices.gov.uk

Clinical Negligence | Top

This does not just involve you suffering injury as a result of the negligence of a doctor but can include all healthcare workers of whatever description eg.

  • GP
  • Consultant Surgeon
  • Health Visitor
  • Midwives
  • Nurses
  • Ambulance services
  • Dentists
  • Private clinics
  • Private doctors
  • Physiotherapists; osteopaths
  • Radiographers
  • Pathologists
  • Opticians
  • Laboratory technicians
  • and many more...

So seek the advice of a Solicitor.


Can I claim? | Top
You cannot claim compensation just because you have been injured in an accident. You need to prove negligence, but the legal definition of negligence is not straight forward. Not every accident involves negligence in law and some may just be "Act of God".

Every case will depend on its own facts.

To get a claim off the ground a Claimant must prove that:

  • it was reasonably foreseeable that harm would result from a failure to take care by the Defendant
  • there was a duty of care owed to him or her
  • the duty was not discharged to the Claimant
  • damage or injury resulted to the Claimant

Even if you prove all of these things you might still not win your case. The law assumes that you will take reasonable precautions for your own safety eg. you are at the seaside and decide to walk out on a harbour wall and slip on a patch of algae and you injure yourself. Will the local council be liable for you injury? It is unlikely because it was day light, it was a sea wall that you could see had growing on it patches of slippery algae which caused an obvious hazard to walkers. You chose to take that risk.

Contributory Negligence | Top
You are injured as a result of the proven negligence of the Defendant, but the Court reduces your damages because it decides you contributed to your own injury or the severity of the injuries. A simple example is that you are injured in a car accident, but did not wear a seat belt so your injuries were more severe than they would have been if you had worn one. If the Court decides that the injuries were 25% greater than they would have been if a seat belt had been worn then it it will reduce your damages by 25%.

In another case a sports hall run by the Council placed the gym mats too close to a wall. It was decided this was negligent and it failed to warn users of the danger. It was forseeable that someone would be injured. An experienced, keen gymnast was permanently injured when he did a somersault on the mats and hit the wall.

The Council was liable, but damages were reduced because the gymnast was experienced, intelligent and should have assessed the danger himself, but he was showing off to friends so did not take care himself.

If you take the risk

This may stop you claiming for injuries sustained in an accident. You have been out with your friends for a night out on the town. You have seen him matching you pint for pint and know he is not fit to drive. You let him drive you home and he negligently drives into a wall. It is unlikely that you could claim for your injuries.

See your Solicitor and go through the facts carefully with them.

"At your own risk"

You will often see notices or signs that say you are there at your own risk, or you are doing some activity "at your own risk". These attempts to limit or even exempt an organiser of an event or owner of a building etc are invalid if an accident results from the organiser's or occupier's negligence.:

You decide to go horse-riding at your local riding school. You are asked to sign a form agreeing you are there at "your own risk". The horse bolts, running into the road and you are thrown off breaking your leg. Later you discover that the horse has a history of behaving badly and bolting. You will be able to claim.

Unavoidable Accident | Top
If a situation could not have been forseen and precautions could not have been taken then no claim can be made. If a driver with no history of heart problems has a sudden heart attack and knocks you down you have no claim against him.

A thorough investigation of the facts and history are needed before deciding there is no claim.

Compensation Calculation | Top
First prove your claim. Then prove your loss. Not every loss can be claimed. There are two types of loss:

a. Direct loss such as your injury physical or mental; damage to your clothing; damage to your car.

b. Consequential loss which arises from your 'direct loss' such as your loss of wages now and in the future and care costs; loss of holiday.

Damages | Top

General Damages | Top
For the pain and suffering you experience as a result of the accident whether short-term or long-term. Anticipated future costs eg. nursing care; needing special equipment. Anticipated future loss of earnings eg. inability to do the job0.. you did and having to take a less well paid job; being handicapped in the labour market.

Special Damages | Top
These are your losses calculated in monetary terms incurred by you between your accident and your trial date and include such things as loss of wages in that time; damaged clothing and repairs to your car; cancellation fees for lost holiday.

Provisional damages | Top
If there is a "measurable" chance that you will develop a serious disease or that you will seriously deteriorate in the future then the Court, instead of making a once and for all payment, can look twice at the issue of damages. It only gives two chances to the Court and only in limited cases.

Marchent was severely beaten by doormen when ejected from a pub. As a result of the beating he fell down some steps but was not knocked out. As a result of the incident he received scarring and fractures, requiring surgery on his left knee.

General Damages:
Pain suffering and loss of amenity (including both orthopaedic and psychiatric injuries) - £55,000

Loss of Marriage or long-term relationship prospects - £0

Special Damages:
Net Loss of Earnings - £16,500

For more details see:
Court of Appeal February 28 2003: Case No: BS150559

Interim payments | Top
You can apply to the court for a payment on account of your likely final damages. Insurers may make this voluntarily.

Standard of Proof | Top
To prove your claim the judge must believe that your version of the facts is probably the correct one. This is a civil claim so the standard proof is "on the balance of probabalities" (In a criminal case it has to be "beyond reasonable doubt").

Small Claims Track | Top
The County Court has three trial tracks. This is one of them. You can only use this if your claim for pain, suffering and loss of amentiy are expected to be less than £1000 and the total value of your claim is less than £5000.

Vicarious Liability | Top
This is the legal rule. If someone commits a civil wrong ( a tort) someone else can still be liable. An employer can be liable for tort commited by an employee in the course of his employment. You could thus claim against the employee for his "primary" liability, and the employer for his vicarious liability.

Richard Vowles, confined to a wheelchair as a result of a rugby accident. On 13 December 2002 Morland J. gave judgment in favour of Mr Vowles against Mr Evans (the referee) and the Welsh Rugby Union who appointed Mr Evans. "He held (i) that Mr Evans had owed Mr Vowles a duty of care, (ii) that he had been in breach of that duty and (iii) that his breach had been a cause of Mr Vowles’ injury."

For more details see: Court of Appeal March 11 2003: Case No: B3/2002/2747

Loss of Amenity | Top
One of the elements making up general damages along with pain and suffering. It is the effect of the injury on your ability to carry out everyday activities eg. housework; diy and personal care and to enjoy life eg. sef-confidence; hobbies; aspirations; social activities; sports etc

Mitigating your loss | Top
As a Claimant you have a duty to take reasonable steps to lessen your financial loss or the effects of your injury.

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Last Modified: November 15, 2010