Why is this important?
This information applies to Scotland only
Table of contents
What is a personal injury
A personal injury can include, for example, an injury at work or in a traffic accident, an injury received as a result of faulty goods or services, an injury sustained by tripping over paving stones, an injury caused by errors in hospital treatment or one sustained by a victim in the course of a crime. An injury can be physical and/or psychological.
If you have sustained a personal injury you may want to consider the following:-
- do you want to make a complaint to the person or organisation you believe was responsible for the injuries (see under heading Making a complaint)
- do you want to make a claim for compensation to cover losses you have suffered as a result of the injury (see under heading Compensation)
- are there any immediate financial problems arising because of the injury, for example, you are unable to work (see under heading Financial problems)
- do you want to contact an organisation that could offer support or counselling (see under heading Support and counselling).
Action to be taken
Whatever you are intending to do about your personal injury, actions you could take include:-
- informing the police if, for example, the injury resulted from a road accident
If the injury was caused by the police, you will need to consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
- if the injury resulted from a road accident, reporting it to your insurance company. The insurance may be invalid if an accident is not reported
- if the injury resulted from an accident at work, you should notify your employer and the accident must be recorded in the accident book. The employer has a legal responsibility to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority environmental health department and may be prosecuted if they fail to do so
- reporting the injury to your doctor because it could become more serious. You should do this even if the injury seems minor. If you subsequently go to court to get compensation for the injury, the doctor will be asked to provide a medical report
- gathering evidence about the accident and injuries. For example, it may be useful to take photographs of the scene of an accident and of what caused the injury. You should also, if possible, write an account of the incident while details are still fresh in your mind. If there are witnesses you should make a note of their names and addresses.
Accidents at work
If the accident happened at work, it should be recorded in an accident book. If you workplace does not have an accident book, you should write out brief details of the accident and injuries, send them to your employer and keep a copy. Your contract may say that you have to report an injury at work to your employer. If you are self-employed, you have a legal responsibility to report some accidents resulting in injury to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or to the local authority environmental health department.
Making a complaint
If you have had an accident or suffered an injury you might be able to get an explanation of what went wrong and to receive an apology. In some cases, there may be an official complaints procedure you can use.
One disadvantage of using complaints procedures is that they are often time consuming and the final result will be no more than an apology. If you have suffered a personal injury and also want compensation, you should be aware that there are time limits for taking legal action (see under heading Taking legal action) and going through a complaints procedure may delay matters.
If you decide that making a complaint will provide a sufficient remedy, you can complain to, for example:-
- a government department
- a local authority
- an employer
- the police
- a school or other educational institution
- a hospital or other National Health Service institution.
If you want more information about how to complain to these types of bodies, you should seek specialist advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
There are four main ways of getting compensation for a personal injury:-
- using a claims assessor (see under heading Claims assessors)
- taking legal action in a civil court (see under heading Taking legal action)
- making a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (see under heading Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority)
- through a criminal compensation order (see under heading Criminal compensation orders).
Amount of compensation
If you have sustained a personal injury and want to claim compensation you should consult a specialist solicitor as it can be very difficult to assess how much compensation to claim for.
If the court finds that the claimant was partly to blame for the accident, it may reduce the amount of damages paid, for example, if s/he was not wearing a seatbelt in a road traffic accident.
Deduction of social security benefits from compensation
If you have been receiving certain social security benefits because of an accident in which you sustained a personal injury, you may have to pay these back out of any compensation you get.
The rules about deduction from benefits are complex and you should seek specialist advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
If you have sustained a personal injury you may be considering using the services of a claims assessor (sometimes known as a claims manager). Claims assessors offer to take up cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis but there may be some disadvantages including:-
- a claims assessor will not usually be a solicitor and may not have a solicitor taking responsibility for the case. If this is so, the assessor will not be able to claim compensation through the courts and the person who has suffered the injury may receive less compensation
- the claims assessor may ask you to pay a percentage of whatever compensation you receive, to the assessor. You should be aware that while paying 50% of £1,000 damages may be acceptable, paying 50% of £10,000 may not.
If you are considering using a claims assessor you should first seek advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Taking legal action
If you want to take legal action to claim compensation for a personal injury you will need to get advice from a solicitor specialising in these types of cases. This must be done as soon as possible as there are strict time limits on taking legal action (see below).
There are different time limits within which you must begin legal action in a personal injury claim. You should therefore get legal advice urgently if you wish to claim compensation.
The most common claim in a personal injury case is negligence and the time limit for this is three years. This means that court proceedings must be issued within three years of you first being aware that you have suffered an injury.
In some cases, a court may decide to extend a time limit, depending on the circumstances of the case.
If you are considering taking legal action and have not yet been to a solicitor you will need to be aware of the time limits for taking action and should seek help from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Paying for legal action
Legal action for compensation for a personal injury can be expensive. You may be able to get help with legal costs from, for example:-
- legal aid or legal advice and assistance
For more information, see Help with legal costs
- a speculative fee arrangement (see below)
- an insurance policy. Many house contents policies, car insurance or travel insurance policies have legal expenses cover attached
- a trade union may be able to help members with free legal advice if the injury happened at work
- a motoring organisation, such as the AA or RAC, may be able to help members with free legal advice if the injury resulted from a road accident
- an organisation keen to take a test case.
Speculative fee arrangement
A speculative fee arrangement means that if you win a case, you must pay your solicitor’s fees and expenses from the damages you receive. If you lose, you will not have to pay fees to your own solicitor but you may have to pay the other party’s costs. Your solicitor will normally ask you to take out insurance to cover this.
For more information about speculative fee arrangements, see Using a solicitor.
If you are considering taking legal action and have not yet been to a solicitor you may want to seek advice about possible sources of help with legal costs from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Choosing a solicitor
If you want to take legal action you should consult a solicitor who is experienced in personal injury work. The Law Society of Scotland should be able to provide details of solicitors who specialise in personal injuries work.
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) is a not-for-profit association of solicitors and acadamics who specialise in personal injuries work. Many lawyers belonging to APIL are part of an accreditation scheme. The accreditation scheme guarantees that members are competent in a particular field of personal injury. All APIL members promise to follow a code of conduct and a consumer charter. They may be useful in helping you find a solicitor who can deal with your case. You can find out more about APIL at:
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)
3 Alder Court
Rennie Hogg Road
Find a lawyer helpline: 0115 958 0585
Trade union members
If your injury resulted from an accident at work, you should, if you are a member, contact your trade union. The union may instruct solicitors to pursue a claim on your behalf and you will not have to pay for this.
Motoring organisation members
If you are injured as a result of a traffic accident and you are a member of a motoring organisation, for example, the AA or RAC, you may be able to get specialist legal advice through that organisation.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
If you have been injured as a result of a criminal act you may be able to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. If you have been the direct victim of, for example, an assault or your injury was sustained when you were attempting to help the police after a crime had been committed you may be able to claim compensation. A close relative of a person who died because of criminal injuries can also make a claim on their behalf.
You must report an incident to the police at the earliest opportunity and an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority must normally be made within two years of the incident. However, in exceptional circumstances, the authority may be willing to extend this limit. An example, would be if you are making a claim for abuse you suffered as a child.
A request for compensation must be made on an application form, which can be obtained from:-
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
300 Bath Street
Glasgow G2 4LN
Helpline: 0300 003 3601 (Monday-Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm, except Wednesdays, which are 10.00am to 5.00pm)
The details of the crime and injuries that must be entered on the claim form are important and if you are completing it you may want to consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Criminal compensation orders
A person convicted of a criminal offence may be ordered by the court to pay compensation for an injury, loss or damage s/he has caused to someone else by committing the offence. If you are the person who has sustained the injury or loss you cannot apply for this yourself, so it is important that you give the prosecution full and accurate information about the injuries and losses to put before the court.
The amount of compensation will depend on the amount the offender can afford to pay.
If a criminal compensation order is made, the court will be responsible for making sure the offender pays.
If you are having financial problems as a result of a personal injury you sustained in, for example, an accident or an incident of violent crime, you may need to consult a specialist money adviser for help with debt and benefits.
You may need financial advice because a member of your family has been injured or killed in an accident or as a result of a crime. You may be able to claim compensation for the loss of financial support.
If you are experiencing financial problems because of a personal injury you or a member of your family has sustained, you should consult a specialist adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Support and counselling
There are a number of voluntary organisations and schemes that may be able to give support to people who have been injured, or whose partners, friends or relatives have been injured or killed.
Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
AvMA can provide information, support and referral to solicitors if you are the victim of a medical accident. AvMA has a panel of medical experts prepared to give independent opinions. AvMA can refer you to a solicitor in Scotland who specialises in clinical negligence.
Christopher Wren Yard
117 High Street
Helpline: 0845 123 2352
Fax: 020 8667 9065
Disabled Living Foundation
The Disabled Living Foundation gives advice and information about equipment available for people with disabilities.
Disaster Action was set up by a group of young people affected by major disasters. The group campaigns for changes in the law, and for improved counselling and compensation, as well as giving support to people involved in disasters and their relatives and friends. It can also make referrals to specialists.
Headway – the brain injury association
Headway supports people with brain injuries and their carers. It also campaigns for improvements in health and social care services. It runs a helpline, and can provide a list of solicitors who specialise in brain injury cases.
Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
The Foundation provides medical care, counselling and therapy to people who have suffered an injury as a result of torture and who live in the United Kingdom. It sets up self-help groups and can examine patients, for example, to provide forensic evidence of torture injuries. The organisation can be of use to someone who was injured and is applying for asylum.
Rape Crisis Centres
Rape Crisis Centres provide free and confidential counselling services for women and girls who have been raped and sexually assaulted. There may also be other, local organisations that provide help and advice to people who have been raped.
Details of groups of this kind can be found in the voluntary agencies directories that can be found in local reference libraries or a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Roadpeace provides support and advocacy for bereaved and injured victims of road accidents. It promotes public awareness of road dangers, and campaigns for justice for victims.
PO Box 2579
Tel: 020 8838 5102
Helpline: 0845 4500 355
Fax: 020 8838 5103
A number of self-help groups have been set up for people who have been injured by, for example, unsafe medicines.
A list of groups of this kind can be found in the voluntary agencies directories which can be found in local public reference libraries or a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
SAMH promotes the interests of people suffering from mental illness or distress and provides advice and advocacy services.
Scottish Women’s Aid
Women’s Aid provides advice, information and sometimes temporary refuge for women and their children who are threatened by mental, emotional or physical violence, harassment or sexual abuse.
57 Albion Road
Tel: 0131 475 2372
Fax: 0131 475 2384
Helpline: 0800 027 1234 (Mon - Fri 10am - 10pm)
Victim Support offers information and support to all victims of crime, except theft of, or from, cars and child abuse in the family. There are local schemes throughout Scotland.
UK number: 0845 30 30 900 (Mon - Fri 9am - 9pm, Sat - Sun 9am - 7pm)
Scottish number: 0845 60 39 213 (Mon - Thurs 8.30am - 4.30pm, Fri 8.30am - 4pm)
Both Supportline services can be used by people in Scotland. They offer emotional and practical services and refer the caller to her/his local scheme.