If you are injured in a road accident, compensation is not automatically awarded.

However compensation claims can be pursued through the legal process using civil law.

Awarding compensation using civil law is not dependent on a driver being found guilty under criminal law of any traffic offence. Even if an injured person was partly responsible for the crash, it may still be possible to obtain compensation from a driver whose actions were also partly responsible.

Compensation payments are also not dependent on the responsible drivers being able to pay any money themselves as their motor insurer usually covers this.

If the responsible driver is uninsured or are untraceable, compensation is usually paid by an organisation called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

A qualified and experienced solicitor can identify if you have a claim for compensation and can pursue a claim on your behalf to ensure you are rightly compensated following any incident.

Hiring a solicitor

To pursue compensation, you need to hire a solicitor – preferably a solicitor with a specialism in personal injury motor compensation claims. The following organisations provide lists of solicitors specialising in this area:

A solicitor should agree to meet with you for free initially, to advise you on whether they think you have a claim or not. Different solicitors have different expertise and experience, different fees and different ways to pay them. You may wish to meet with more than one solicitor to choose who you feel is there most appropriate to handle your case.

It is important you fully understand any agreement you sign with a solicitor and particularly any costs involved in them pursuing compensation for you.

Watch out for high-percentage fees

You may be approached by someone offering to handle your claim for a straight percentage of your compensation – such as those you see advertised in the media.

If you sign-up to such a service and are awarded a large amount of compensation, you will probably have to pay an unreasonably large amount to the person handling your claim.

Someone called a claims assessor or claims farmer, or a claims management company often proposes contingency fees. Claims assessors are not personal injury solicitors. They are neither qualified nor regulated to the standards of solicitors.

Questions you should put to a solicitor before consider hiring them:

  • How many serious injury traffic claims have you handled in the past year?;
  • have you handled claims similar to this one recently? For example, claims with the same type of injuries? If so, can you describe these claims and their success?;
  • will you handle this case, or will you pass it on to other solicitors who I haven’t yet met? If so, can I meet them before hiring your company?; and
  • how will I pay you, and how much will it cost me if I win and if I lose?

If you are in any doubt about a solicitor, consult a different individual/firm. Some claims take years to process, so it’s important that you’re happy with the solicitor you choose.

Don’t delay

If you have a good chance of compensation, the solicitor you hire will want to get started on your case as soon as possible. It can take time to compile evidence to support your case and the earlier you hire a solicitor, the sooner compensation can be awarded.

Claims must be submitted within three years. Sometimes it takes time to determine the severity of the injuries and the long-term effect on the injured person’s life both at home and at work. Evidence needs to be collected and medical reports need to be obtained from doctors.

The time limits are extended for children and also for adults who have mental health problems, which prevent them from managing their own financial affairs.

Talking to your solicitor

Ensure you know who is handling your case. Sometimes several people in a solicitor’s office may be working on it at the same time.

Your solicitor should be available to talk to you regularly, on the phone or face to face. They should explain what is happening in straightforward terms and answer your questions.

It’s a good idea to keep notes of conversations and copies of correspondence so you can keep track of your claim.

Complaining about or changing solicitors

If at any stage you are unhappy with the service you are getting from your solicitor, you can ask to speak to the partner in the practice responsible for looking after clients; often called the complaints partner. If you remain dissatisfied, it may be possible to change solicitor.

Paying your solicitor

There are various ways to pay for your legal services, though how each company/solicitor asks for payment is up to them. You can:

  • pay your solicitor as you go along  – if you have the funds to do so, or you insurance policy covers legal expenses. Your solicitor can help you check any insurance policies you own to find out if you are covered;
  • pay your solicitor at the end of the case – if you do not have the funds available but you have a strong claim, it may be possible to come to an agreement with your solicitor that means you only have to pay a small amount, or even nothing, if you lose your claim; and
  • ask the person you are claiming against to pay your fees – if you win, the person you are claiming from will usually have to pay most, or all, of your solicitor’s legal fees and expenses. Depending on the agreement you signed with your solicitor, you may however have to pay your solicitor additional funds from your compensation.

Remember: There are complex laws governing how solicitors are paid in compensation cases. It is important that you understand from the beginning how your solicitor intends to cover the costs of your claim and any fees you may personally be liable for, no matter if you win or lose your claim.

It is particularly important that you DO NOT sign an agreement that would result in your solicitor unreasonably obtaining a large amount of your compensation if you win your case, or you being liable for hefty legal costs if you lose your case.

Types of compensation

After learning about your accident, your solicitor may advise you to make one, several or none of these claims. All claims depend on proving someone else was responsible for the incident you were involved in. Common types of claim are listed below:

Awards for injuries

Money may be awarded to compensate for pain and suffering and for injuries. This is called a ‘general damages’ award. The size of this award is determined by the severity of your injuries and the suffering that has been caused to you.

The award will take into account the effect on an injured person’s life – for example, inability to do normal day-to-day tasks, or play sport or enjoy other recreational activities as a result of the injuries suffered.

Damages may also be awarded for emotional or psychological suffering caused by the crash.

Awards for financial losses already incurred

Money may be awarded to compensate for money already spent or lost as a result of injuries. These past losses are called a ‘special damages’ award.

Special damages may include:

  • loss of earnings;
  • medical fees and equipment;
  • mobility aids and special housing;
  • carers (professionals or relatives); and
  • travelling expenses.

Awards for future losses

Money may be awarded to compensate for expenses that will be incurred in the future as a result of injuries. Awards for future losses may include:

  • loss of future earnings, including likely pay rises and promotions;
  • loss of pension rights;
  • on-going medical costs, for example, physiotherapy;
  • medical fees and equipment;
  • mobility aids and special housing;
  • carers (professionals or relatives); and
  • travelling expenses.

Preparing and negotiating your claim

It will take your solicitor some time to put your claim together. In order to prepare your case, the extent of your injuries suffered will need to be proven by medical reports and financial losses incurred will also need to be proven.

It is important to keep all receipts of expenses so past financial losses can be calculated accurately and proven.

Once your solicitor has prepared your claim, they will contact the motor insurer of the driver from whom you are trying to claim against (the other side). If the other side admits liability, your solicitor will start negotiating with them to determine how much compensation they should pay.

Most claims are settled through negotiation rather than court action.

During the negotiation process tother side may attempt to argue your claim is too high. For example, they may try to argue your injuries are less severe or less debilitating. The other side has the right to check injuries and losses stated by your solicitor. They may carry out their own investigations to check a claim is accurate.

Knowing that lawyers and insurance companies are negotiating over the value of your claim can be distressing, particularly if your case takes time to be resolved.

Remember – it is not necessarily in your best interests to ask for a claim to be settled early. This could result in less money being awarded than due.  Ask your solicitor to keep you updated on a regular basis about how your case is progressing.

Offers made during negotiation

Both your solicitor, and the other side, can make offers of compensation during negotiations. Either side has a right to accept or reject an offer. Your solicitor should explain any offer you receive, and help you decide your response.

Going to court

If the level of compensation for injuries cannot be agreed through negotiation, or if liability is not admitted, your solicitor may start legal action against the other side with an anticipation your case will be heard in court.

However, even after legal action has started, your solicitor is likely to continue to try to negotiate a settlement with the other side. Sometimes, the other side will make an acceptable offer just before a case is heard in court.

If agreement cannot be reached, your claim will be heard in a County Court or the High Court by a judge. There is no jury involved. Success in court is not guaranteed –it is up to the judge to rule on each case as a result of the evidence presented.

Cases brought on behalf of children

Cases brought on behalf of children are always decided in court. In most cases, money awarded is kept and administered by the court in a special account until the child is 18.


If after pursuing your claim through the courts and you disagree with a judge’s ruling, you should discuss this with your solicitor. Appeals can be made but there are limited grounds for doing so and they must be made within strict time limits. These time limits are usually within one or two weeks of the judge’s ruling.

To proceed with an appeal your solicitor must show that the judge was wrong or that the decision was unjust because of a serious error in procedure.