When someone is injured in a road traffic accident, often the insurers for the driver responsible will contact the injured person directly almost immediately in an attempt to offer them compensation without the involvement of a solicitor. There are a number of risks with accepting any such offer:-
- In the interests of saving money, the offer is invariably less than the injured party should expect to receive for the injuries sustained.
- If the injured party has not yet recovered, at this early stage there is really no way of realistically valuing how much compensation they should receive.
- If the injuries develop to be more serious than originally thought, the injured party will almost certainly have under-settled their claim and will have no way of obtaining any further compensation.
I recently acted for H, a cyclist who was injured when a van driving in the opposite direction attempted to turn right without warning into a side road across H’s path. The driver turned without indicating or stopping to check for oncoming traffic. H was unable to stop and collided with the van.
H sustained various soft tissue injuries including bruising to her face, hands and hip. The following day, she woke with a painful headache, and continued to suffer from headaches intermittently. She took a few days off work, and developed strategies for coping with her headaches, although they continued to impact on her life.
Within a week of the accident, H received a call from the driver’s insurers offering her £1,000 in full and final settlement of her claim.
H approached me as she felt unsure of whether the insurers’ offer was reasonable. I advised her as I always do that she should not feel under any pressure to settle her claim at this stage, and that to settle a claim without an independent medical report which dealt with the extent of her injuries and gave an opinion on how her headaches would be in the future meant that she was at real risk of under-settling her claim.
I wrote to the insurers to confirm that I was now acting for H. I applied for copies of her medical records and arranged for her to be seen by an expert consultant neurologist.
The expert opined that H had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury and as a direct consequence had started to suffer from post-traumatic headaches. At the time of the examination, H’s headaches had reduced to about one every two months and the expert expected her to be free of headaches within a year to eighteen months of the accident.
I advised H that she had two options: she could either put forward an offer to settle her claim on the basis that her headaches would resolve within this period, or she could wait for eighteen months to make sure her headaches did in fact resolve, and if not, we would go back to the expert for an updated opinion. H was confident that her headaches would continue to reduce and wanted to make an offer now to settle her claim.
I valued H’s claim on the basis of the medical report and advised on how much she should expect to receive for her injuries. We then entered negotiations with the defendant’s insurers and H received £5,000 in compensation.
Although it may be tempting to accept any offer made by insurers immediately following an accident to achieve a quick settlement, in my experience these offers are rarely fair or reasonable. Insurers act in their own best interests and will of course attempt to save themselves money. It is very important that the injured party seeks independent legal advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor so that they have someone to act in their best interests too.