Here you can find our legal glossary. You can find definitions of all key terms, phrases and principles relating to personal injury law and compensation claims.
Admission of Liability
An admission by the defendant that they have breached their duties and are at fault, or partly at fault, for the accident. Admissions of liability are often made subject to causation, in other words, the claimant still has to prove that the injuries complained of were caused by the accident.
The lawyer responsible for arguing cases in court. Also known as Counsel.
Breach of Duty
A failure on the part of the defendant to meet its duties of care or accepted legal standards.
This refers to the principle that the accident must have caused or contributed to the injuries sustained. The most common legal test is known as the ‘but for’ test. “But for the accident, would the injuries have occurred?” Take the example of Employee A who slips over in work and hurts his back. Before the accident, Employee A had a long history of back problems. As a result of the accident, Employee A can no longer work. Now, is the accident completely to blame for this, or do the longstanding back problems come into play? These are the types of questions causation seeks to answer.
The person pursuing a claim.
The monetary award made at the end of a claim. Compensation, also known as damages, can be made up of two heads of claim: General Damages and Special Damages. Both are explained below.
Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU)
A government agency that recovers benefits paid as a result of an accident, injury or disease where a compensation payment has been made for the same loss. This is known as the compensation recovery scheme. Its purpose is to help injured individuals until their compensation is paid, and when that happens, the state recovers its money. A loan of sorts.
An instance in which the claimant is deemed to have contributed to their injuries. For example, a failure to wear a seat belt in a road traffic accident.
A formal word for barrister.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
The government organisation that compensates victims of crimes for the injuries sustained. Can range from common assaults to cases of historic sex abuse.
The individual, organisation or entity defending a claim.
Duty of Care
This refers to the responsibilities on the part of individuals or companies to maintain certain legal standards. Should they fail to meet these standards or duties, they may expose people to risks or hazards which could lead to accidents. The ‘general duty of care’ principle originated in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson , and this quote from Lord Atkin summarises the idea well:
“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be–persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called into question.”
Note: the law has changed since Donoghue v Stevenson.
The idea behind employers’ liability is to give employees legal protection from repercussions from their employer if they suffer an accident and pursue compensation. The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 requires every company to have employer’s liability insurance in place.
During a claim, both sides will employ the services of expert witnesses to provide crucial evidence. So for instance, medical experts will be instructed to examine the claimant, scrutinise medical records and provide their opinions and prognosis. These findings are then used to value the claim or to prove certain allegations.
This term refers to the costs incurred by a solicitor in pursuing a claim.
This was recently introduced into the legal system and is designed to punish claimants who have been found to have lied or exaggerated the extent of their injuries in order to get a higher award of compensation. If fundamental dishonesty is found, the conditional fee agreement between the claimant and their solicitor may be voided, as well as any insurance policy in place to protect the claimant or their solicitors from paying the defendant’s costs. This would leave the claimant liable to pay the defendant’s costs, which could amount to tens of thousands of pounds.
One of the heads of claim that makes up compensation. General damages is a financial award which is designed to compensate the claimant for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity experienced as a result of their injuries.
In cases involving serious injuries, claimants can get an interim payment of compensation early on in the claim. Such payments may be used to cover mortgage payments or rent if the claimant has been left unable to work.
Issue of Court Proceedings
This refers to the step of issuing a claim form in the courts and signals the beginning of the litigation process. In personal injury, medical negligence and RTA cases, court proceedings must be issued within three years of the date of accident or negligence. See below for more.
Decision by the court on a case. Note that when used in this sense, there is no ‘e’ in the word.
Refers to the legal process a claim goes through once court proceedings have been issued.
All claims, save a select few (such as historic sexual abuse), are subject to what’s known as a limitation period. The Limitation Act 1980 sets out the legal time limits in which a claim can be issued. In personal injury, medical negligence and RTA, the time limit is 3 years from the date of the accident or negligence. If court proceedings have not been issued within 3 years, the claim will be time-barred, meaning that in the eyes of the law, it is too late to make a claim. There are, however, exceptions to the 3-year rule, but they are limited and hard to argue.
The responsibility someone has for their actions.
Letter of Claim
The first letter sent to the defendant by the claimant notifying them of their intention to pursue legal proceedings and setting out their case in detail.
If an injured person is below the age of 18 or lacks the mental capacity to pursue a claim, a family member or guardian can pursue the claim on their behalf. The appointed relative becomes known as a ‘litigation friend’.
Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB)
In RTA’s involving uninsured defendants, claimants can recover compensation from the MIB if the defendant lacks the funds to pay themselves.
A breach of a duty of care which results in damage. This definition encapsulates the three requirements needed to prove negligence:
- Did the defendant owe the claimant a legal duty?
- If so, did the defendant breach that duty?
- As a result of the breach, did the claimant suffer an injury or illness?
If the claimant can prove all of the above, the defendant’s negligence will be established.
No Win, No Fee Agreement/Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA)
This is the agreement entered into between the claimant and solicitor. The purpose of the CFA is to give the claimant the financial security and confidence to pursue a claim. If the claim is unsuccessful, the claimant’s solicitor cannot recover their fees from the claimant. If the claim is successful, the claimant’s solicitor is entitled to deduct a success fee from the claimant’s compensation.
Occupational Disease/Industrial Disease
Although this is classed as a form of personal injury, occupational diseases are distinct and in some instances more complex than accident claims. The main difference between them is that occupational diseases usually develop over a long period of time, whereas accidents involve a single, traumatic incident.
Refers to the duties of care owed by those who occupy property through leases or ownership to those who come onto their land.
Before claims are issued and litigation commences, they must go through what’s known as the pre-action protocol. This is also known as the pre-litigation process. Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, so the legal system encourages parties to negotiate a settlement first. It also allows both parties an opportunity to gather and present evidence.
If the limitation period of a claim is close to expiring, it is possible to issue court proceedings protectively so that the claim does not become time-barred. This grants the claimant a further few months to obtain crucial evidence, for solicitors to further investigate the claim, or for the parties to negotiate a settlement.
This covers instances of negligence that may arise as a result of defects, for example, a failure to maintain premises, leading to a visitor injuring themself. Public liability insurance usually covers defendants in such situations.
The agreement made between the claimant and the defendant to settle the claim.
The person or firm instructed by the claimant or the defendant to handle legal proceedings on their behalf. Solicitors instruct the services of barristers and expert witnesses.
Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA)
The governing body regulating solicitors. All qualified solicitors must be registered with the SRA. Should any solicitors or firms of solicitors be involved or guilty of malpractice, they must report it to the SRA.
Statement of Evidence
Every claimant must give to their solicitor a statement of evidence. This statement sets out in detail the facts of the claimant’s case and the effects the resulting injuries have had on their life.
Statement of Truth
All statements of evidence, as well as other legal documents, are certified by a statement of truth, which affirms the accuracy of stated facts.
This is the second head of claim that makes up the compensation package. The purpose of special damages is to compensate the claimant for any losses or expenses they have incurred or will incur in the future. This covers the likes of loss of wages, medical expenses and travel expenses, to loss of future income if the injury has forced retirement or a change of profession, or the costs of making adjustments to the home.
This is the cut a solicitor is allowed to take from a claimant’s compensation award. It is legally capped at 25% and is designed to cover some of the solicitor’s fees in pursuing the case.
All cases end with a final trial. This could run over a single day or several days. It all depends on however many is required to hear all of the evidence. The claimant and their witnesses will attend and give evidence, so too will the defendant. Expert witnesses will be cross-examined by barristers. Costs of trials can be in the tens of thousands, so that’s why few cases ever get this far. It is more financially pragmatic to settle.
Defendants generally do not want to admit that they were at fault. If they did, other employees who have experienced similar incidents or injuries might make a claim too. So instead, defendants often make ‘without prejudice’ settlement offers, meaning that they are prepared to settle the case but are not prepared to admit fault.
Someone other than the claimant, defendant or an expert witness who can provide credible evidence to support or refute the claim.