Accident claims: what am I entitled to claim?

So you’ve had an accident and someone else was at fault. This blog looks at what you are entitled to claim when making an accident claim.

You are entitled to “General Damages” which is compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. You are also entitled to “Special Damages” which are out of pocket expenses.

The starting point for calculating General Damages is the Judicial College “Guidelines for the Assessment  of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases” (commonly referred to by legal practitioners as the “JSB Guidelines”). These are guidelines set down by judges to help judges and other legal practitioners calculate how much personal injury claims are worth. The JSB Guidelines tend to be a bit broad (some might say vague) so we also rely on case law to see what judges awarded in similar cases.

Special Damages are any out of pocket expenses and can include things like loss of earnings, medical expenses, medical treatment, damage to property, travel expenses, the cost of adapting property, the cost of care etc.

If the injured person is put at a disadvantage on the labour market because of their injuries then they are entitled to a “Smith -v- Manchester award” (named after a famous case).

It’s the special damages which are nearly always the difference between a small or modest claim and a big claim. Take a random example for demonstration purposes. An office worker loses a foot in a car accident. However, the nature of his work means that he will be able to carry on with his career as he did before the accident. The JSB Guidelines give a tariff between £60,000 to £78,000 for General Damages (11th Edition). He returns to work and so the loss of earnings claim is modest. However, the same injury to a different person could have a very different outcome. Imagine that a young professional footballer loses a foot in a car accident. His General Damages are the same as our office worker. However, his loss of earnings could run into millions.

Hastings and Co Solicitors specialise in accident claims and are accredited members of the Law Society’s prestigious Personal Injury panel. Nearly all cases handled by Hastings and Co Solicitors are done so on a “no win, no fee” basis. For a free assessment of your accident claim please call 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not a substitute for legal advice.

Why use a solicitor?

In this day and age solicitors are competing with other service providers, so we have to differentiate ourselves as a profession and explain why we should be preferred over other service providers. We can think of a number of reasons why you should use a solicitor:- 1. Professional Indemnity Insurance. Solicitors are required to have professional indemnity insurance so that if they make a mistake, the client is assured that the loss is underwritten by an insurer. In effect, our advice is insured. 2. Compensation Fund. Thankfully not many solicitors are dishonest however in cases where they are, there is a Compensation Fund which clients can call upon. 3. Knowledge and Expertise. The standard route to becoming a solicitor involves a minimum 4 years at University and then a minimum 2 years on the job training. Whilst at University the wannabe solicitor has to undertake a number of compulsory areas of law including contract and tort law, criminal law, property law, trust law and public law. If the wannabe solicitor studied law then he or she will have studied a number of other areas of law. As a Trainee Solicitor the wannabe solicitor is required to practice at least 3 areas of law one of which must be a contentious area of law and one which must be a non-contentious area of law. So the wannabe solicitor gains a good grounding in a number of different areas of law and gets a well rounded education. This comes in useful in practice where often areas of law will overlap. 4. Client Account. Solicitors are required to keep client monies in a client account separate from the solicitor’s own resources. Every year solicitors are required to have their accounts audited by Chartered Accountants to make sure they are adhering to the Solicitors Accounts Rules. 5. Professional rules. As solicitors we are bound by professional rules and ethics. These include for example (a) a duty to act in the best interest of our clients, (b) a duty not to allow our independence to be compromised, (c) a duty to act in a way that maintains the trust the public has in us, (d) to act with integrity…the list goes on (see the SRA Code of Conduct 2011). 6. Regulation. Solicitors are required to adhere to strict rules of conduct and they are watched over by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 7. Redress. If you want to complain about a solicitor you can complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Legal Ombudsman. So when you instruct a solicitor you know that you a getting all of the above. This is not always the case if for example you instruct a non-regulated will writer to write your will or you instruct a non-regulated employment adviser to advise you on an employment issue. Hastings & Co Solicitors are a niche practice in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in debt collection, litigation, employment law, personal injury claims, landlord and tenant law and commercial law. For further advice please telephone 01245 835 305.

Debt collection: making a statutory demand

For a company or individual that is owed more than £750 a statutory demand can be a useful tool to put pressure on the debtor. A statutory demand has to be made on the correct form and then served on the debtor. If the creditor wishes to rely on the statutory demand in a subsequent bankruptcy or winding up petition then the creditor will require proof that the statutory demand was served on the debtor. Once served with a statutory demand the debtor has 18 days to either (a) settle the debt, or (b) reach an agreement with the creditor or (c) in the case of individuals apply to the court to dismiss the statutory demand (the rules are different for companies). If the debtor still has not paid by 21 days then the creditor can apply to the court for a petition to wind up (in the case of a company) or make bankrupt (in the case of individual). When is not appropriate to serve a statutory demand? I acted for a homeowner recently in connection with a building dispute. The facts briefly are that my client had engaged a builder to carry out building works on his property. The builder then subcontracted some of the work to another building company. As you would expect my client paid the contract price to the main building contractor. Unfortunately, the main building contractor did not pay his subcontractor who was left out of pocket. Thinking that my client was a better prospect of getting paid that the main contractor the subcontractor demanded payment from my client. As you would expect, we pointed out to the subcontractor that he had no contractual relationship with my client and that his claim was against the main building contractor. Not satisfied with this the subcontractor served a statutory demand on my client. That proved very costly for the subcontractor as we applied to the court to have the statutory demand dismissed and the subcontractor ended up paying my client’s costs. The moral of the story there is that it is not appropriate to serve a statutory demand in circumstances where the debt is disputed. Liam Hastings  specialises in debt collection and litigation. For further advice or assistance please telephone 01245 835 305. Disclaimer: this blog only gives a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.

What is civil litigation?

Civil litigation is the process of resolving disputes through the civil courts. Historically, your typical high street firm of solicitors had a criminal law department for clients in trouble with the law, a family department dealing with divorces and children issues and a civil litigation department dealing with other types of dispute. What types of dispute are we talking about? It could involve private individuals or businesses and the subject could be about anything. We regularly deal with the following types of dispute:
  • businesses or private individuals which are owed money
  • personal injury claims
  • contractual disputes
  • probate disputes
  • disputes between landlords and tenants
  • disputes about land including rights of way and boundaries
The common theme for all of the above is that claims are usually brought in the County Court or High Court and are governed by the Civil Procedure Rules. The practice of civil litigation is reserved to solicitors so that only solicitors can undertake civil litigation on behalf of other people. In theory, you do not need to instruct a solicitor in order to bring or defend a claim in the civil courts as it is possible to act as a litigant in person. However, the court rules can be complicated and litigation is not for the faint hearted. Furthermore, if you get it wrong litigation can be very expensive and so unless you know what you are doing it is wise to get advice from a specialist. Hastings & Co Solicitors are a niche solicitors practice in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in debt collection, employment law and civil litigation. For further advice or assistance please contact Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305.

Is there a compensation culture or is it just a myth?

It is ironic (or should that be hypocritical) that the insurance industry promotes the idea that there is a compensation culture and as a result that we are all paying inflated insurance premiums on our car insurance. Why is that ironic? Because it has been common practice for the last 10 years or more for insurance companies to actively encourage victims of road traffic accidents to make a claim for personal injury. How does it work? Imagine you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident and so you report the matter to your insurer probably so that they will take care of fixing your car. Your insurer then persuades you to make a claim for personal injury and refers your claim to one of its panel solicitors.  The panel solicitor pays anything between £350 – 700 for the referral. So insurers have been making literally millions every year by encouraging people to make personal injury claims. From our perspective it does not feel as though there is a claims culture because we don’t pay for referrals and only act for local people who have either been referred to us or who have made a decision to find us. They have not been cajoled by their insurance company to make a claim. The majority of the claims we see are from genuine people who have suffered real injuries. In some cases the injuries are dibilitating and can have a negative impact on people’s lives. Take for example someone who has broke a limb and cannot work for 3 months. They only get statutory sick pay and can’t afford to pay the mortgage. This is not an unusual scenario. When it comes down to the principles which underlie personal injury claims we doubt whether any truly rational person can dispute the logic of it all. In order to make a personal injury claim in this country you have to prove that someone else was in some way at fault.   Everyone accepts that if you damage someone else’s property that you should pay for it. We can’t imagine that anyone would argue the fact that if you drive your car into the rear of another person’s car, you (or your insurer) should pay for the damage. It is only logical that if you injure the driver you (or your insurer) should also pay for the damage. Part of the problem arises in that some injuries are not easily detected for example, some whiplash type injuries. There have also been some reports of criminal gangs staging accidents. However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The fact that some unscrupulous individuals will exploit the system does not alter the logic which underlies personal injury claims. Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Chelmsford, Essex and specialise in personal injury claims of all types. For a free assessment without any obligation call 01245 835 305 to speak to an experienced solicitor.

Credit control – assessing the risk

Whenever we are asked by one of our clients to sue either an individual or a business we assess whether that person or business is worth suing. As they say, “there’s no point suing a man of straw”. At the end of the day, the client decides whether to proceed or not with litigation, however, we make sure that the client understands the risks involved. The assessment which we undertake is the type of assessment which individuals and businesses should undertake when deciding whether to give their customers credit and how much credit to give. We ask the following questions:- 1. Who exactly are we dealing with? ie are we dealing with an individual or a limited company. 2. Do they own any assets? 3. How long have they been trading? The following online resources are either free or relatively cheap:-
  • In the case of individuals we check the Individual Insolvency Register to see whether the person has been made bankrupt or some other form of insolvency.
  • In the case of companies we check Companies House as this will tell us the address of their registered office, how long they have traded and whether they have been filing accounts.
  • The Land Register can be checked to find out who owns a particular piece of land.
  • Nethouse Prices will give you an idea how much properties have been selling for in the same area.
  • For a small charge you can find out whether the individual or company already has any County Court Judgments registered against them.
The more you know about your customer the more informed your decision will be. Hastings & Co Solicitors are a niche solicitors firm in Chelmsford, Essex that specialise in debt collection and litigation. For advice or assistance please call Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305.

What makes us different from Thomas Higgins

We are aware that many businesses throughout Essex and East Anglia use Thomas Higgins solicitors (based in Merseyside) for their debt collection work. To be fair, Thomas Higgins are cheap, charging only £2 plus VAT for a letter before action or £5 plus VAT for a late payment demand. By comparison we charge £15 plus VAT for a letter before action (although we do automatically include a demand for late payment compensation). Admittedly we are more expensive than Thomas Higgins however we still feel that we are good value for money. How does it work in practice? Typically, we will get an email from one of our regular clients which says something like: “can you send one of your letters to the to the following company.” They provide us with the name and address of the company that owes them money together with details of the outstanding invoices including dates and amounts. We then send that company a letter warning them that if the debt is not paid within 7 days, legal proceedings will be commenced. In addition we advise the debtor that they owe our client compensation pursuant to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 and we tell them how much they owe. We ask them to send payment directly to our client. So what happens if the debtor still does not pay? If it becomes necessary to issue legal proceedings Thomas Higgins charge fixed costs for issuing a claim. Our charges are not fixed in the same way however we still offer good value for money and in most cases our charges are less than the compensation and fixed costs that we are able to recover from the debtor. This means that we are often able to recover the full face value of the debt for the client. However, where we offer real added value is when the debt is disputed and this does make us different from Thomas Higgins. It is our understanding that if the debt is disputed Thomas Higgins then inform the client that they do not handle disputed cases and the client has to find a new solicitor. This can be after legal proceedings have been issued. So legal proceedings have been issued, they are being defended and you now have to find a different solicitor to act for you. We are happy to deal with disputed cases and have the skill and experience to advise you on the merits of the dispute. Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Chelmsford, Essex and specialise in debt collection. For advice or assistance please contact Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305.

Quality Solicitors

Quality Solicitors FJG of Colchester and Chelmsford has announced that it’s leaving the Quality Solicitors network. FJG will revert back to their original name Fisher Jones Greenwood. Quality Solicitors is a network of independent solicitors. Solicitors that have signed up to the Quality Solicitors network rebrand and usually get called  Quality Solicitors followed by their original name. Fisher Jones Greenwood’ Managing Partner, Paula Fowler, has said “QualitySolicitors is the fastest growing legal network in the UK and has enjoyed tremendous success and we wish all the firms that remain within QS all the very best for the future.  However, feedback from our clients and professional connections, in this, our 30th year, has given us confidence that the Fisher Jones Greenwood brand is sufficiently strong in our target markets to go it alone.” Quality Solicitors are being watched by thousands of independent solicitors throughout the country. They were one of the first nationwide marketing collectives for solicitors. Hastings & Co Solicitors is a niche solicitor’s practice in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in debt collection, litigation, employment law, personal injury, landlord and tenant and commercial law. For independent advice contact us on 01245 835 305.  

John McCririck Loses Age Discrimination Claim

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at the recent case of John McCririck –v- Channel 4 Television Corporation & IMG Media Limited. Racing pundit and TV personality John McCririck has lost his claim for age discrimination against Channel 4 and production company IMG Media Limited. The key issues for the Employment Tribunal to determine were (a) whether John McCririck was not allowed to work because of his age and if so (b) whether the treatment was a proportionate means of a legitimate aim. In a 44 page judgement theTribunal came to the conclusion that the Respondents had a legitimate aim namely that they wished to bring horse racing to a wider audience. The tribunal also accepted that McCririck was rejected not because of his age but because IMG’s new executive producer found him to be loud mouthed and chauvinistic. It remains the case that for an employer to defeat a claim for age discrimination it has to show that either the treatment was not age related or alternatively that it was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in employment law. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance. Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

Late Payment Legislation

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at recent changes to the late payment legislation. Background The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 came into force in November 1998. It entitled businesses to charge interest on outstanding commercial debts at a generous rate of 8% above the Bank of England base rate. In August 2002 the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 was amended by the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002. It was amended so that businesses could claim compensation on outstanding debts in addition to interest at the following rates:- (a)    for a debt less than £1,000, the sum of £40; (b)   for a debt of £1,000 or more, but less than £10,000, the sum of £70; (c)    for a debt of £10,000 or more, the sum of £100. The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 has made minor changes to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. The key changes, which came into force on the 16th March 2013,  are as follows:- (1)    Changes to payment periods – where the purchaser is a public authority and payment terms have been agreed – the payment period cannot exceed 30 days. Where the purchaser is a private sector business and payment terms have been agreed the payment period cannot exceed 60 days unless agreed and provided the payment period is not “grossly unfair” to the supplier. (2)    Creditors are now entitled to recover any reasonable costs of recovering the debt, over and above the fixed sum compensation. Comment We are big fans of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. The compensation, together with the fixed costs that we, as solicitors, are able to recover when commencing legal proceedings, mean that we are often able to recover our charges, in addition to the full face value of the debt, in undisputed cases. If the new right to recover reasonable costs, enables us to recover costs in disputed cases below £10,000 (ie the current small claims track limit) where previously we were not able to recover reasonable costs, this will be great news for creditors who are owed money. Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in debt collection and litigation. They offer a low cost debt collection service but have the skill and experience if the debt is disputed. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance. Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.