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Serious Injuries Guide - collaboration between solicitors for both sides to the argument - why it is important

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury – indeed any life changing injury – the chances are that if you have a claim for compensation, it will involve a substantial sum of money.

We have represented clients where their spinal cord injury was the result of clinical negligence who could be forgiven for thinking that the bureaucratic way their opponents defend the case might be summed up as ‘no compensation will be paid unless and until a Judge orders it some years hence’.

If you have the same injury – and therefore the same losses and need for compensation – but it was caused other than by clinical negligence there is a much better route to resolving the claim. It is essentially an agreement that sits alongside the usual litigation procedures and by which signatories experienced in representing Claimants and insurers representing Defendants agree to try to collaborate in the resolution of claims faster and more cost effectively than would otherwise usually be achieved.

The Guide To The Conduct Of Cases Involving Serious Injury (the ‘Serious Injury Guide’) is used by signatories to it in cases valued at £250,000 or more and with an element of continuing future loss. It does not however extend to clinical negligence claims.

The representative of the Claimant activates the Guide by making contact as soon as possible with the Defendant’s insurer. The aim is that the insurer reaches an early decision on liability by which the Claimant’s needs can be prioritised and interim payments on account of damages and costs can be made. The insurer usually appoints a similarly experienced solicitor to conduct matters and the solicitors work together to identify what remains in dispute and how best to address it.

The Civil Procedure Rules which guide how litigation should be conducted and brought before the Courts impose duties on parties that are broadly similar – and non-compliance can be sanctioned. But the Serious Injuries Guide is a voluntary code which seems to bring about a mutual and proactive co-operation that is often missing in litigation pursued merely per the Rules.

Brethertons were one of the early signatories and clients we have assisted have benefitted in a range of ways:

  • One client benefitted by our working with the Defendant solicitor to find the evidence they couldn’t but which the insurer had to hang a denial of liability on (the Defendant was adamant another party unseen by police or anyone else at the scene, had caused the collision he couldn’t then avoid). Working together we found several witnesses who completely refuted the Defendant’s version of events and by which liability was quickly then admitted and interim payments made which allowed the Claimant to adapt their property and recruit professional carers prior to discharge.
  • Another client was discharged from hospital to free up a bed but with totally inadequate care and support and having not been referred for further rehabilitation. Working with the Defendant insurer’s solicitor and within the Guide we were able to place the client into a specialist private rehabilitation hospital where their rehabilitation needs were met. Case management was funded and upon discharge his needs were met seamlessly and directed by the case manager funded by the Defendant’s insurers’ interim payments.
  • Another client benefitted to a similar extent as those outlined above, but their needs also focussed on a career change forced by the injury and needing further education, retraining, and recruitment so they could continue to support their young family but in a job their disability would not prohibit access to. Collaborative working with the Defendant’s insurer’s solicitor was instrumental in progressing things from the point the life changing injury was sustained to the point where a new and fulfilling career was established and financial security preserved for the client and their family.

The Serious Injuries Guide is hugely important. Life after spinal cord or any other life changing injury is difficult enough without then having to fight inch by inch to secure the compensation that whoever caused the injury is ultimately required to pay.

The earliest admission of liability; the mutual understanding and respect between representatives involved for just how difficult the Claimant’s predicament is while seeing the Defendant’s insurer’s right to take issue with points and protect the Defendant’s legitimate position; and then the proactive collaboration that can be achieved between experienced specialists working together to resolve issues in dispute is a much more positive and sensible way of dispute resolution than litigation alone often struggles to achieve.

The Claimant benefits (they get the right compensation sooner, and the stability and security that interim payments can bring), but so does the insurer (in cases their insured is liable in they reach the inevitable outcome sooner and more cost effectively).

If you are newly injured, inevitably worried about the future: about income and outgoings, about needing to adapt a property or live somewhere else, getting an early admission of liability, a signal that the Opponent’s representative is prepared to deal with your case appropriately and sensitively can shine the brightest of lights in to the darkest of times.

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