What are the factors to weigh up in making this decision?
1. Is my claim likely to succeed?
There is little point proceeding with a claim which may likely lose. Just “trying it on” and hoping for a settlement is not a recommended strategy for success. Make sure your legal advice is that you have at least good prospects of success.
2. Is my claim worth the effort?
It is usually the most important client question (and often the first one!). How much is my claim worth? When you understand how a claim for compensation is calculated you will then know most lawyers cannot give you more than a broad range at the start. For example, the same injury, being a lower back strain, could be worth under $20,000 if the injured person can manage to continue working and has a full recovery within 6-9 months, or $200,000 if that person needs time off from work to the extent their job is at risk. This is just an illustration how the recovery over the next year will play a large role in determining your compensation. Liability risk can also play a large factor in outcome.
No lawyer at less than 6 months post injury can advise you what your claim is worth except in broad terms and with lots of qualifiers.
So, how do you know if you have a viable claim?
The starting point is to assess the initial injuries and their impact upon you, your work and home life.
A bruise will not leave a mark in compensation terms. A fracture requiring pins will generally mean there will be a delayed recovery and likely future impact.
If there are no lost wages or other impacts on work ability, obtaining a decent result can be a challenge.
3. Will it cost more than it is worth?
A compensation lawyer working on a no win no fee basis is restricted from charging more than you receive “in your hands”.
For example, a $20,000 settlement with $4,000 in statutory refunds and legal expenses (not fees) means $16,000 remains and the maximum legal fee charge is $8,000 GST incl.
Clients will need to weigh up the various ways making a claim will involve them:
- Time to see lawyer, doctors, fill in paperwork, collect information, wait out a claim which could be 12 – 18 months
- Stress from wondering how claim is going, how much might I get, answering questions about the accident and your medical history and negotiating your claim (ignoring for the moment starting Court action in tough cases)
- Loss of privacy – lawyers, insurers and others seeing your medical records and employment records, wages etc. We must all keep it confidential but making a claim opens your life to this sort of examination.
- Not being able to move on. For some a big part of their recovery is not just the physical wounds, but also the feeling of wrong and losing something through no fault of their own. While a claim is running the emotional recovery can seem to be on hold, and while you want to get on with your life, the claim keeps bringing up the old incident. For some people they need the claim outcome to obtain their justice and be able to move on.
I can’t answer your question for you. Everyone has different priorities and weighs the above factors for themselves. I hope this short guide helps you think through what is best for you in your circumstances.
Disclaimer – This article is designed to share knowledge and should not be relied upon as legal advice.