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Should You Accept The First Offer Made To You For Your Whiplash Injury Compensation Claim?

05th January 2012
By Robert Gray Solicitor in Legal
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Copyright (c) 2011 Robert Gray

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident in which you sustained a whiplash injury you may be thinking about starting, or may already be in the process of, making a claim for compensation for the injuries and losses you have sustained. After going through the trauma of the accident and coming to terms with the injuries you have sustained, you may be eager to put the matter behind you by finalising your settlement agreement with the third party's insurers as soon as possible. Therefore, as soon as the third party's insurers put forward an offer in settlement of your claim, it may be very tempting to accept the offer and bring the matter to a close. This article looks at how compensation for your injuries is actually calculated, what to do if you receive a first offer from the insurance company within a week or so of the accident, and what to do if you have a solicitor acting for you and a first offer comes in from the third party's legal representative.

It is important, first of all, to look at how your claim for whiplash injury compensation is actually calculated. Your claim is split into two parts - general damages and special damages. Your general damages claim is your claim for the actual pain and suffering you have experienced. This value of this claim is calculated by comparing the injuries you have sustained to those of Claimants in previously settled cases that have sustained similar injuries to your own and have taken a similar amount of time to recover. To do this, your solicitor will arrange for you to be examined by an independent medical expert who will assess you and prepare a report detailing your injuries. Your solicitor will then use this report to compare your injuries and prognosis to the previously settled cases. The compensation amounts awarded in the previously settled cases will give your solicitor some idea of how much your claim for general damages may be worth.

Your special damages claim is your claim for any out of pocket expenses you have incurred as a direct result of the accident. This could be things like travelling expenses to medical appointments, prescription charges for medications, loss of earnings and loss of overtime.

It is, unfortunately, quite common for third party insurance companies to telephone potential Claimants within a week or so of the accident to put forward an offer 'in full and final settlement' of your claim. This offer is likely to be low - the insurance company will of course want to dispose of the matter as quickly as possible and for as little as possible - and you should not accept it. At this early stage in proceedings, you have no idea how long your injuries are going to go on for. For example, somebody suffering from a whiplash injury that has fully resolved itself within 2 months of the accident is going to be awarded a considerably lesser amount of compensation than somebody whose symptoms persist for a couple of years. If you accept an offer in full and final settlement of your claim you would not be able to go back at a later date and claim further compensation if your injuries continue to persist.

Similarly, if you have a solicitor acting for you and they receive a first offer from the other side's legal representative, you should discuss the offer carefully with your solicitor before deciding whether to accept. There is usually room for negotiation - the insurers are unlikely to put forward their 'top' offer at the outset - and, in any event, your solicitor will advise you to delay settlement of your claim until you have either fully recovered from your injuries or have a firm prognosis in place.

In summary, do no risk under-settling your claim due to your desire to conclude matters. Take legal advice before accepting a first, or any subsequent, offer made to you by the third party's legal representative.


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