Letter Of Claim: How to start an accident claim for compensation following an injury in the UK
Find out how a letter of claim is used to start your claim for accident compensation, what your letter of claim must include, why a solicitor should draft this letter to ensure you have the best chances of winning your claim and how to receive free online legal help before you commence claiming compensation.
What is a letter of claim?
A “letter of claim”, formerly known as “letter before action”, is a formal letter which notifies the person you believe at fault for your accident that you hold them responsible for your losses (pain and suffering for physical injuries, psychological injuries and financial losses) and you intend to make a claim for compensation from them.
This should be the first letter to the would be Defendant, whether the accident is a road traffic accident (car, bike, truck or pedestrian accident), work accident (you would typically write to the business at the registered office address – the business is considered a separate identity in its own right), industrial disease (again the letter of claim would be addressed to the business who employs or who formerly employed you), medical negligence claim (if the clinical negligence occurred in hospital – the letter is addressed to the relevant NHS trust),etc.
What is the format of a letter of claim?
For a letter of claim to be effective it should comply with the requirements of the relevant pre action protocol.
A “pre action protocol” is a set of legal guidance instructions for various different types of injury claim – for example one exists for road traffic accidents, another for industrial disease claims and yet another for clinical negligence.
Generally speaking a letter of claim should set out certain information, including:
1. Say who you are
You should state either that you are the Claimant in the action or, if written by a solicitor, that you are acting on behalf of the Claimant.
2. Set out the accident circumstances
Explain when the accident happened and briefly what happened.
3. Allege negligence or fault or breach of statute
You must say why the person you are writing the letter of claim to was at fault, negligent or in breach of statutory duty (breaking a written parliamentary law) for your accident.
4. Describe your injuries and financial losses
You should describe in brief what your injuries are as a result of the accident (physical and psychological injuries) as well as a basic overview of the financial losses you have suffered and whether the losses are ongoing.
5. Request sight of relevant documentation
You should set out in general terms the documents you expect the person at fault to have in their possession, request that those documents be provided to you in a list format (this is known as disclosure of documentation) and when you have the list you should request a copy to be sent of the documents you would like to see (this is known as inspection of documents).
The pre action protocol described earlier sets out a helpful list of the likely relevant documents.
6. Nominate medical experts
To prove the injuries you have suffered you will need a medical report from an independent medical expert, so in your letter of claim you should nominate a relevant expert and give the Defendant a number of days (typically 42 days) to object.
For smaller value claims you would typically refer to three medical experts and send CV’s with your letter of claim. This will allow the other side to examine the CV’s to check that expert is independent (providing reports for both Claimants and Defendants in equal proportions). If no objection to any of the experts is taken – you can select the medical expert you prefer from the three you have selected.
7. Request that the Defendant’s insurer be notified of your claim
You should send two copies of your letter of claim and remind the Defendant that the copy letter of claim should be sent to the relevant insurance company (for road traffic accidents – this would be the motor insurer, for work accidents the employment liability insurance).
8. Warning that you will issue proceedings
A letter of claim should read like it means business, so you may wish to include wording that indicates proceedings will be issued at court if liability is not conceded within a time period specified by you.
Should you use a solicitor to write your letter of claim?
“Yes” – a letter of claim is an extremely important document – badly worded letters could prejudice your whole claim.
Remember a letter of claim can be referred to a court and brought to the judge’s attention.
In the law wording is everything – you might be trying to say one thing, but the words you use might suggest another.
Specialist personal injury solicitor free online help
See our website’s free online legal help options for personal injury claims – you can ask an online question or discuss your potential claim before writing your letter of claim.