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The Spinal Injuries Association’s advises patients to interview more than one solicitor in order to make an informed decision about who they instruct. It should be a given that the solicitor contacted via the Spinal Injuries Association Manual will have sufficient experience and credentials to assist, but we have blogged previously about the need to be wary here. We took a case some time ago where the previous solicitor advised settlement at an amount more than 40 times less than the amount we eventually settled it for.
You must also take your time to make an informed decision, however that is subject to ensuring that you are able to preserve evidence that might be vital in establishing liability. Unless the opponent’s liability can be established of course, compensation will not follow. In a spinal injury case – or indeed any case – that can have a massive impact.
Suppose the injury is suffered in a road traffic collision. The person cannot remember what happened and is obviously in a bad way in hospital. Suppose there are few witnesses and the information available from the police is limited pending further investigation and potential (though not inevitable) prosecution.
The police might well have impounded the vehicles involved pending completion of their work (work focussed on exploring whether the State should prosecute a party involved in the incident as a result of criminal offences that may or may not have been committed). There will obviously be some pressure to get the vehicles released.
If the car is repairable and liability is contested, it could be months before the police investigation notes are available pending the criminal proceedings running their course. The car is repaired and evidence that might have been of assistance in establishing liability is lost. The police report might – in time - assist but it would be better to have had an engineer look at the car much sooner in order to take the claim in to the realms of the Guide To The Conduct of Cases Involving Serious Injury (see my separate blog of The Serious Injury Guide – Common Sense Best Practice, link here).
Suppose the car involved in the collision has faulty parts on it. Suppose as well that the car is a write-off and sent to the salvage yard ready to be scrapped. It could be the difference between pursuing a claim and winning and not even pursuing the claim at all for lack of evidence as to what part or parts malfunctioned and why.
In a claim involving spinal cord injury, that could be the difference between a life depending on exhausting any pre-injury savings and being dependent on what the State can provide (it seems 7/10 people who suffer spinal cord injury do not have grounds to pursue a compensation claim in connection with how they became injured) or a life where compensation is secured and can be the difference between what the State can provide (and deems necessary) and what might be considered to be reasonable.
I have seen several cases where preserving the evidence early made such a huge difference – and in one or two cases, all the difference - between the claim being successful and the claim not being able to progress.
The advice must be to flag this concern early with the police and with those that might be able to put you in touch with a solicitor who will be able to intervene to protect your position in any claim even before it has begun.