Injury: first steps
This article outlines some first steps you should consider following an accident that results in personal injury.
As you will notice, the steps you need to consider vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the accident:
(1) Injury at Work
Report the Accident
If the accident happened at work, notify your health and safety representative. If you don't know who is responsible for health and safety matters at your workplace, ask your manager or supervisor.
Every employer is legally obliged to maintain an accident book. Your health and safety representative should record your accident and injury in this book.
Consider the Cause of the Accident
If you believe that your accident resulted from your employer's negligence (for example, if you tripped and fell on a loose floorboard that people had been complaining about for weeks, but that your employer hadn't got round to repairing) then you may have grounds for making a claim.
Photograph the Hazard
If there was a particular hazard that caused your accident at work, you should take pictures of it if that's possible. The photographic evidence may be useful if you make a claim.
Do Not Discuss Fault
You should not feel pressured to say anything that might prejudice any claim that you may have ("it was probably my own fault because I wasn't looking"). Your report to your employer's health and safety officer should simply be an objective account of the circumstances of the incident.
(2) Injury in a Road Accident
Notify the Appropriate People
If you are injured in a road accident, you need to report the accident to (i) the police, (ii) your insurer, and (iii) your doctor. You should do so as soon as possible after the accident occurs.
If the accident is a serious one and the police come to the accident scene, you should ask them how you should make your report of the accident. It is important that they have your account of what happened, even if they are able to examine the aftermath of the accident themselves.
If you are seriously injured, you may not be able to make an immediate report, but it may be possible for a friend or relative to help you make the report as soon as you are well enough to do so.
You also need to report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. For road accidents, the questions of liability, damages, and so forth are frequently resolved by the insurers rather than by the parties directly -- although your insurer will want your initial report of the accident and may want to ask you supplemental questions about the accident before it agrees anything with the other party and his insurer.
If your injuries are not so serious as to require you to go to a casualty unit, you should nevertheless see your doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries, such as head injuries, can evolve from a minor bump into something much more serious. The accident may be someone else's fault, but you could end up being responsible for your undue delay in seeking medical treatment.
If you are able to get the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses, you should do so. Also, when possible it is a good idea to take photographs of the accident scene and prepare a written statement of what happened. Initially, you might simply keep these items in your own file, but they will almost certainly be useful if your make a claim or if there is any dispute arising out of the accident.
(3) Accident at Home or Elsewhere
If you are injured in an accident at your home or on someone else's premises, you should take the steps referred to above -- seeking medical treatment and documenting the circumstances of the accident.
You should also consider whether there is any insurance that might cover your injury. For instance, if you are injured in an accident at a friend's house, does your friend carry homeowner's insurance. If you are injured in a shop or while visiting someone's business premises, the business owner will almost certainly have public liability insurance, which may provide compensation for your injury.
(4) General Principles
Keep Good Records
You should keep all of your records, receipts, documentation, photographs and other evidence relating to the accident in one place, so that you can easily find them and produce them as necessary. In general, you should assume that you will only be able to obtain compensation (or defend a claim against you) with hard evidence.
Do Not Settle Without Advice
An insurance company may well try to get you to agree a quick settlement. You should not be pressured by any person into accepting such a settlement before you have had an opportunity to take legal advice from a solicitor.
Do Not Admit Fault
If you talk about the accident with someone other than your solicitor, do not discuss fault. And do not offer an apology as someone could use that as evidence of your fault.
(5) Get Legal Advice
If you have been injured in an accident, particularly if the injury is severe, you should get competent legal advice from a solicitor. You can find a solicitor who specialises in personal injury law in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are even ready to hire a solicitor.