Two wheeled riders are more vulnerable to injuries than other vehicle drivers due to a lack of crumple zones and protection from their vehicle, meaning that the full force of the impact is passed directly to the rider.
Claiming for Injuries
There are typical patterns of injuries in motorcycle accidents and 50% of all injuries are to the legs. The next most common area of injury is to the arms.
For minor injuries you may not have bothered going to hospital or your GP. You can still claim, but may have to rely on friends and family to give supporting evidence of the injury. Common sense usually prevails. Fall off your motorcycle and most people will accept that an injury is pretty much inevitable. Where you have seen your GP or gone to hospital a brief letter or a copy of your medical records may be sufficient. Alternatively, photos on your phone or a camera may suffice.
More serious cases must be backed up by medical evidence, usually obtained from an independent expert. Reports can be expensive, but the cost of most are now governed by guidelines.
The injury and its effects must have been caused by the accident. Victims usually have a simple logic that if they were fine before the accident and are not fine now then all the problems must be related to the accident. But it is not what you know, but what you can prove.
The aim of any award is to compensate for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (how the injury has affected your life) caused by the injuries. This includes both the physical and psychological effects. Not all losses can be measured in monetary terms; but money is all the law has to offer.
The Calculation Process
The starting point is the “Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases“. This sets out in tabular form brackets for different types and severity of injury. You assess which bracket the injury falls within and then where in the bracket. You fine-tune the figure using relevant case law.
What Can Be Claimed?
Pain, suffering and loss of amenity are usually quantified together and a single award made. Emotional shock, fear, anxiety and embarrassment are included in this award. A person who suffers only emotional distress that is not connected to physical or psychiatric injury does not have a claim unless it is serious enough to amount to a recognised psychological condition.
Extreme examples of loss of amenity include loss of brain function, loss of any of the five senses, loss of sex-life, loss of ability to form relationships and loss of ability to care for children. In addition cases which involve complicated pain issues can be particularly demanding. Any claim needs to be backed by evidence, including medical evidence, and more complicated cases often require experts from a number of disciplines. It is worth keeping a diary (including a pain diary) in complicated cases to enable you to remember and compare the effects the injuries have had on you over time.
It is important that you seek medical assistance following any accident. This will provide advice on any injuries sustained as well as a written record of the injuries. You should also consider taking photos of the injuries (making a note of when the photos were taken).
Injuries generally have to be proved by independent medical evidence. This is usually by means of an expert (GP, consultant or other) providing a written report. It is unusual for a treating medic to provide that report, as they are not regarded as independent. Depending on the nature and extent of injuries it may be that a number of reports will be required either from the same expert or from a number of different experts in different fields.
The hardest part of any claim is usually the valuation of any injuries sustained. This is primarily due to the subjective nature of the impact any injury will have. Whatever happens you are always likely to feel that the compensation for your injury was a pittance compared to what you have been through.
In the case of serious injuries you will almost inevitably receive ongoing or long term medical treatment, but who is providing for your family or making sure your mortgage is still being paid? When you have an accident the money may stop coming in, but the bills do not.
In severe cases it is important that your priorities are put first. Where treatment is required rehabilitation can be sought and pressure brought on the other side to pay for this. If you are off work you may also have difficulties paying your rent or mortgage and financial assistance can also be sought. There are timescales for this, so the sooner you instruct a solicitor the better. If you are in hospital your family or friends can arrange a meeting and we will come and see you, rather than waiting until you are able to come and see us.
Large value claims rarely arise from the injury itself. They flow from the effect the injury has on you in the long term. If you lose your job or career the complexity and value of the case increases dramatically.
Over the years the value of compensation did not keep up with inflation and the real value of money. As a result a legal challenge was brought in 2000 in the case of Heil v Rankin following a report from the Law Commission recommending that all personal injury awards should be increased by between 50% and 100%. Despite much anticipation, the result was an increase in awards only above £10,000 and on a sliding scale up to a 1/3 increase for awards in the region of £150,000.
Nowadays the Judicial College issue guidelines each year on the appropriate ranges of awards for categories of injuries. For example, how much would you give for your right arm? They say it is worth between £70,000 and £83,500 for an amputation above the elbow. We have set out general guidance to the value of injuries, but nothing is a substitute for a proper assessment of the value of injuries in your case. The guidelines are often criticised as being too wide or too loose in their definitions and cases invariably turn on their own particular facts.
Where we believe we excel against every other firm is our trial experience on liability and quantum cases involving motorcycles. There are very few firms that can match us in terms of raw trial expertise and we regularly take over serious claims only to find that the previous solicitors have missed or seriously undervalued items of loss.