The importance of thoroughly investigating claims
I recently acted for a client who was injured on Christmas day 2014 when he was knocked from his bicycle by a drunk driver. He sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders, right knee and back. His previous solicitor had undertaken some initial investigations and advised him that the driver had not been identified, and so an application should be made to the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) under their Untraced Drivers Agreement to provide him with compensation.
The previous solicitors then handled the case for a year during which little was done, although the MIB arranged for my client to be seen by a GP expert, and then made an offer to settle the claim for £5,500 for the injuries, plus any financial losses sustained as a result of the accident.
I took over management of this case in January 2017, at which time the MIB were advising that not enough information had been provided, and if this was not done within the next 28 days, the claim would be rejected.
I quickly reviewed the information gathered on this case so far and answered the MIB’s questions. On reviewing the GP report obtained by them, it was clear that my client was still suffering from physical symptoms from the accident. It was also clear that he was suffering serious psychological symptoms. My advice was that he reject the MIB’s offer of £5,500, and I should arrange for him to be seen by orthopaedic and psychiatric experts to give an opinion on his injuries.
Importantly, there was a scrap of paper on the file detailing a name and address. My client was at first unable to recall what this information was, but on meeting with him and talking this through further he remembered that he had spoken with the driver following the accident and he had gone into a house which matched the address that was on the piece of paper. It was therefore extremely likely that this was the address of the driver in the case.
I provided the MIB with the driver details and advised that, as there was in fact an identified driver, I expected the claim would now continue under the MIB Uninsured Driver’s Agreement (in the event the vehicle was uninsured) rather than the Untraced Driver’s Agreement. The MIB carried out further investigations and then returned to advise that they would accept the claim under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement. This was important because a solicitor has much more control of a claim under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement. Specifically, the solicitor chooses medical experts to instruct and has the controlling hand in the speed and decision-making in progressing the claim.
I immediately organised for my client to be seen by an orthopaedic expert to assess his ongoing symptoms and a psychiatric expert. The orthopaedic expert recommended physiotherapy and I approached the MIB for funding for this which they agreed.
The psychological effect of the accident was more complicated. The expert diagnosed my client with severe PTSD which required urgent input. However, the expert was unable to give a clear indication of the effect of the accident on my client’s PTSD. He was a refugee from Sierra Leone who as a photojournalist had witnessed atrocities and it was clear this had had a serious impact on his mental state. He was likely to have been suffering from PTSD pre-accident. In the expert’s opinion, however the accident was likely to have exacerbated his PTSD. The expert advised that my client would need some treatment to recover to an extent that she could then re-examine him and hoped that she would be able to more accurately assess the impact of the accident on his mental health. I approached the MIB and requested some psychological support, but they did not agree because the effect of the accident on his mental health was unclear.
My client had been unable to access help via a GP because was homeless and had been unable to register with a GP as he had no documentation. He had been given leave to remain but had sent his passport to the Home Office in 2008 and had not had it returned. He also had no fixed address. My team were able to support him to register with a GP without documentation and then help him access mental health support via his GP which he did.
I was then able to have my client re-examined by the psychiatric expert a year from the date of his first appointment and she was able to provide a firm prognosis on his injuries. In her opinion, the accident had caused a relapse of PTSD which my client had been managing prior to the accident.
By this time, my client had completed the treatment the orthopaedic expert had recommended, and this expert was able to provide a final prognosis on his physical injuries.
Prior to the accident, my client was a student of photographic studies at college. Despite his difficulties pre-accident, he had been doing well at college and his aim was to set up his own photography business once he had completed his course. The accident had derailed these plans temporarily.
Now that the medical evidence was finalised, I was keen to secure a swift settlement for my client so that he could concentrate on rebuilding his life. I put together a schedule of financial losses suffered as a result of the accident and advised my client on an offer to make to the MIB to settle his claim. Negotiations ensued and the claim settled for £26,000. My client was very happy with this and has subsequently advised me that he used the money to find secure rented accommodation and launch his own photography business which is currently doing very well.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*