Q: I was a passenger in a friend's car which was involved in an accident two months ago. Although I suffered what paramedics described as minor injuries I didn't pursue a claim for damages at the time because I believed there was no permanent damage and it seemed disloyal to my friend. However, I have since developed quite severe neck pain which my GP thinks is accident related and has recommended physiotherapy. As the NHS waiting list is eight weeks or more and you are only allowed so many appointments in my area, I have decided to go privately, which I can ill-afford. Is it too late to pursue a claim?
A: You have three years from the date of the accident in which to bring a claim. You should gather together all relevant information relating to your injury and consult a solicitor as soon as possible. Using a local Personal Injury solicitor is best as it will give continuity in respect of handling your case and ensure the claim is settled only when the medical evidence is finalised, not when the insurance company wishes to "buy off" the case. Once the insurers realise they are dealing with an experienced solicitor from a reputable law firm, rather than a claims management company who could use solicitors that may be anywhere in the country, a satisfactory conclusion can often be reached before the case even gets to court.
Another reason why you should act as fast as possible is that recently the government announced its intention to look again at putting personal injury claims into the small claims courts. If that happens it could mean claimants will be expected to put together their own case, including obtaining medical notes and an expert's report. The injured claimant would then have to attend court and present their case against an insurer, without legal representation.