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One of the key elements of being entitled to compensation is having a liable person, party or organisation to make a claim against. For the majority of personal injury claims it is usually easy enough to see who is liable, and if you’re not at fault a no win no fee solicitor will likely take on your case. However, a denial of liability is not uncommon, even in what can appear to be a straight forward case. The good news is you can still often claim personal injury compensation if liability is in dispute.
What happens when liability is denied
When liability is denied, an acting Solicitor will discuss the denial with the claimant and investigate what response can be made (if any) to force the denial to be withdrawn and replaced with an admission of liability.
One of three things will happen:
- The claimant Solicitor will review the denials and consider them to be so strong that they close the claim. Whilst this would be disappointing, you should bear in mind that you will not have to pay any costs for your claim as it will have been managed on a no win no fee basis. You also have the option of finding another solicitor for a second opinion.
- They may take the view both parties share some blame and proceed with the claim under what’s known as split liability.
- Otherwise, they will consider the denials weak and without legal standing, and ultimately may seek a barrister’s opinion to pursue the claim further and bring the decision on liability to a Judge in court.
How split liability affects your claim
In some cases, a claimant may find that they will have to accept a percentage of the responsibility for an accident. This is called split liability or contributory negligence. In this situation you can still receive compensation but it will be lower than if the defendant was 100% liable.
For example, when asking if you have a valid slipping accident claim your condition at the time is relevant. The 3rd party responsible for where you slipped may admit the floor was dangerous and wet with no signs erected, and therefore to an element of liability. However, if they can prove you were drunk at the time they can argue this contributed to the slip. In such a case, the claimant may have to accept that they are 25% or 50% responsible for the accident and as such, accept a reduction in compensation to reflect this.
Taking your claim to court
Neither side would wish to go to court if they didn’t feel that they were likely to win. Going to court is unlikely in most personal injury claims, but you should always be aware that it is a possibility.
It is frustrating when a defendant does not admit liability when there is compelling evidence to support a claim, and in the long run may indeed cost them more than simply working on a fair settlement for your claim. However, the courts system is here for such situations and if you have a strong claim a Judge will likely find in your favour.
If you are of the view that statements issued by the defendants are misleading and factually incorrect, you need to attend the court and provide responses to every incorrect element of their statements to the Judge sitting on the case. If you can provide factually correct responses in a manner that the Judge is minded to accept, you could well succeed with your claim. If you can provide evidence to substantiate your version of events you will succeed!
Proving liability for your injuries
Whether you go to court or not, to maximise and win any settlement you will need to prove the 3rd party is liable for your accident and injuries. This can only be done with evidence that the accident took place, of what caused it, and how you were impacted. Accident reports, witness statements and medical reports can all be used to provide evidence.
Liability for accidents at work
Employers will often deny liability if they believe they have fulfilled their legal responsibilities to provide a safe environment and given you the relevant training, guidance and risk assessments to work safely. To prove otherwise, the injured employee must be able to demonstrate that the employer was liable and exposed the staff to risk of injury, rather than it being their own fault. For example:
- Did your employer give you the correct training?
- Were you given an induction to the workplace?
- Were you provided with personal safety and protective equipment (PPE) to complete your job safely?
- Did your employer adequately maintain equipment and service machines?
- Were you advised how to report accidents and how to access the accident book?
- Did your employer ensure correct staffing levels and an adequate amount of first aid trained staff?
- Did your employer act upon reports of potential risks of danger to employees?
Liability for road traffic accidents
Even if your vehicle was written off, it’s not guaranteed you’ll be eligible to claim injury compensation. As well as evidence of the damage to your car, you would need medical evidence of your injuries from a Hospital or GP for your Solicitor to be able to force an admission on the personal injury claim too.
In cases of car accident claims where one car crashes in to the rear of another stationary vehicle, it is usually easy to apportion blame and therefore workout who will be the liable party. However, it’s important to note that admitting liability for a car or other road accident does not mean admitting liability for any injuries. The defendant’s solicitors may not be denying there was an accident or that it was caused by their driver, but they may be arguing the force of the collision was not consistent with sustaining personal injury.
Low impact collisions
Unfortunately, insurers have started fighting claims where the speed of collision or force of impact is low – even if they admit to liability for the accident and vehicle damage. There is evidence to support both sides in this scenario – evidence shows that whiplash and typical injuries associated with road traffic accidents can occur at very low speed, but counter evidence states that such injuries cannot be sustained at lower speeds. As such, insurers are using so called ‘low impact collision’ as a defence.
Untraced or uninsured drivers
In the UK, victims of untraced drivers (hit and run incidents) can still pursue a claim for compensation via the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) scheme. The criteria to make such a claim requires the claimant to report the incident to the Police at the earliest opportunity, obtain a crime reference number and seek medical attention for any injuries sustained.
As a passenger injured in a car accident, it does not matter which party is liable or whether both parties are held partially liable, you can make a claim for personal injury compensation providing you have medical evidence of your injuries.
Liability in claims against a local council
Local authorities and landowners rely on area inspections when it comes to identifying potential hazards that need attention. The courts have essentially stated that if a local authority inspects an area every 6 months and finds no hazard, and if there have been no reports from the public of hazards in between inspections, they will not be liable for any accidents that may happen.
Therefore, the only option available is to attempt to prove that the council is liable because the inspection was inadequate or that they have not acted on reports from the public of any hazard in the area. One good way to do this is to look at the accident site on Google Streetview and then backdate the view to a previous year. If the hazard is visible in an image dated BEFORE the council’s previous inspection it proves they missed it and a claim can proceed.
The reality is that it is becoming harder and harder to successfully pursue slip, trip or fall claims against local authorities and highways agencies. The courts tend to lean towards defendants in such claims and if there is any scope to deny liability, no matter how tenuous, local councils will do so. As such, it is vitally important to ensure that whoever is representing you in your claim is a specialist Solicitor with a proven track record of success in public liability compensation.
To maximise your chances of success you will need witness statements or have a recording or CCTV footage of the incident to get admission that the accident happened. What you will then need to do is demonstrate that the incident is consistent with the nature of the injury you are claiming for – which should be possible by way of provision of your medical records. Then if it can also be proved the council failed in their required inspection duties and are therefore liable for your accident, your claim should be successful.
How we can help
The fact that a third party or local authority have denied liability should not in and of itself make you give up and leave a claim. Our Solicitors would be happy to discuss this matter with you and can advise as to whether or not they can take this matter further.
If you have any questions about liability or whether or not your accident scenario warrants a claim, please call our team on 01225 430285, or if you prefer, we can call you back. We know your rights and can help you to understand them. We’ve successfully helped many clients claim compensation for their injuries and we’d love to help you, too.