Chapter Three: How to Start a Claim
In this chapter:
By the end of this chapter, you will have an understanding of how to begin your claim, how to identify the Defendant and how to draft your Letter of Claim.
Beginning Your Claim
If you have suffered an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence and you decide to bring a claim, you need to understand, right from the beginning, that you might ultimately need to go to court to resolve it. Even although the majority of claims settle outside of court, and it is expected that both parties will attempt to resolve the problem between them before starting legal proceedings, you should always behave as if a Judge will see everything, all correspondence and notes.
The court will expect you and the Defendant to have followed the correct procedures. These procedures are called the ‘pre-action protocol’ for personal injury claims.
The ‘pre-action protocol’ are, effectively, the rules laid out explaining how both parties should act and behave while bringing a claim. This guide will lead you through bringing a claim following the ‘pre-action protocol’.
Identifying the Defendant
To bring a claim for your road traffic accident, you will need to identify the Defendant.
Depending on the nature of your accident this could be another road user, such as another driver, a cyclist, a pedestrian. If the Defendant stops at the scene of the accident you should make sure to get their contact and insurance information. You should also make an effort to get their car registration number at the time as well as this will make identifying the insurer easier, it is the insurer who will deal with your claim.
Checking whether a driver has insurance is a straightforward process, facilitated by the AskMID website (found here www.askMID.com). A one-off search will cost £4.00, payable by credit/debit card.
If the police are involved make sure to get their reference number as you will need it to obtain a copy of the police report and learn who the police believe are responsible for the accident and if charges are being brought.
If the Defendant flees the scene and you cannot identify them, then you will need to consider making a claim through the MIB and should check out LawCat’s MIB accident guide.
Letter of Claim.
To begin your claim, you will send a letter of claim to the Defendant.
The Letter of Claim should include your full name and address, your national insurance number, date of birth and date of the accident. It should also contain enough information for the Defendant to understand the accident and investigate it.
In particular, it should provide the following information:
- Details as to how your accident occurred;
- The date and time of your accident;
- Where your accident occurred. The place of your accident should be sufficiently detailed to enable the Defendant to establish the location; it is entirely acceptable to send the Defendant a Google map print out with the location marked;
- The reason why you think the accident was the Defendant’s fault;
- Details of your injuries;
- A rough estimate of your financial losses including details of any time you took off work and your approximate weekly income.
- Whether or not you had to attend hospital for your injuries and if so which hospital. You should also say if your treatment is ongoing or if it had ended.
You should ask the Defendant for details of their insurer and tell them that the second copy of this letter should be passed to their insurer as quickly as possible.
You should also tell the Defendant that you expect them or their insurers to acknowledge receipt of your letter of claim. Normally this will be within 21 days of the date of the letter of claim. See Appendix 2 for a template letter noting the acknowledgment of your letter and Appendix 3 for a template letter if you do not receive an acknowledgment of your letter of claim.
Lastly, you should ask for the following documents:
- Documents are identifying nature, extent and location of damage to Defendant’s vehicle where there is any dispute about the point of impact.
- MOT certificate where relevant.
- Maintenance records where vehicle defect is alleged or Defendant alleges that there was an unforeseen defect which caused or contributed to the accident.
For a template see Appendix 1. This template complies with the precedent letter in the Pre-Action Protocol.
Now you should have an understanding of what the first steps of brining a claim are. You will understand how to identify the Defendant and draft your Letter of Claim.