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Jargon Buster

In this jargon buster Dominic Moss, senior partner at Stonehewer Moss and a solicitor with over 23 years’ experience in personal injury law, explains some of the terms commonly used.

Jargon Buster

Special Damages

Special Damages are any type of damages you get from your claim that aren’t actually related directly to your injury. So, they would be more things to do with loss of earnings. For example, the cost of care that you’ve received, or the damage to any of the property that you may have had as a result of the accident. For example, your car or your equipment.

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General Damages

General Damages are those damages that relate directly to your injury. So as opposed to Special Damages which are on another Jargon Busters blog, General Damages are those things that relate to the pain and suffering and loss of amenity. Now what does that mean? Pain is obvious, that’s the original pain you had when you had your accident, suffering is the more long-term effect and the loss of amenity is the fact that you can’t do anything or something that you currently could do before the accident, for example play football. That might go on forever, it might only go on for a matter of weeks and that is how the figure of General Damages is made up and that’s separate to any financial losses which as I say I talk about elsewhere.

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We may have sent you a form which says on the top CNF and you might be wondering what is this form? The CNF is the Claims Notification Form and it’s a form we use to start a claim, sometimes for information only and sometimes to send to the defendant. Particularly if it’s an employer where they need to have notice of the claim. They receive the form and most often we’ll receive back details of their insurers.

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You may have received a CRU certificate in the post, this is a certificate from the Compensation Recovery Unit whose name are the initials of the certificate. This is simply an explanation of the amount of money that you have had from the government as a result of your accident. So, if you have an accident, you go off work and you have to actually claim benefits as a result of that. The government will want that money back and they’ll want that money back from the compensator and the compensator is the person who is liable to pay your compensation. So, the government provide a certificate that tells us how much money they want back as a result of your accident.

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Claim Form

A claim form is a form that you might get after your claim’s been going a little while. If we aren’t able to negotiate a settlement with the other side, either because they don’t accept that it’s their fault or they won’t pay you enough money, then we have to issue the case at Court. To do that we need to fill in a claim form and we need to make sure that the claim form is correct because once it’s been completed it’s not as easy to change. So, if we’ve sent you a claim form and ask you to check through it along with what we call particulars of claim, which is more words about how your accident happened and what it is that you want to claim for, then make sure it’s all correct.

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Issuing Proceedings

We may talk about issuing Court proceedings to you and you may think well what does this actually mean? What is this issuing word? It’s simply, and I think it makes it sound perhaps too simple, it is the act of sending your claim to the Court, because before we issue proceedings the claim is being dealt with by negotiation, mostly with the insurance company for the defendants. If for some reason they don’t want to pay you any money, or enough money, then we have to send the case to Court using the Court forms and that process is called issuing proceedings. You must have issued proceedings in any case within three years of the date of your accident. I shouldn’t say in any case, in most cases that is the case.

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We may have talked to you about disclosure and if you’ve had a letter about disclosure it’s probably a good idea to give us a call back and make sure you understand what your obligations are. But for the purpose of this Jargon Buster blog what you should know is that disclosure is the part of any Court proceedings where the party send to the other party any papers, documents, videos, anything that might be something that they want to rely on in their case. So for example proof of a loss, proof that your car has been damaged, proof that you’ve lost earnings or proof that the accident happened in a certain way, so it might be CCTV evidence. The defendant has the same obligations of disclosure and once disclosure has taken place, they the parties should theoretically have all the information that the other has got about how the accident happened and what it’s worth.

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Pre-action Protocol

We may have talked to you in discussions and mentioned the pre-action protocol. You might have seen it in paperwork and you might think well what is this protocol that people are talking about? This is simply an agreement between Personal Injury claimant lawyers like myself and defendant bodies such as insurance companies and defendant solicitors, to make sure that steps are taken so that the parties have as much information as close to the beginning of each claim as possible. In the olden days people used to ambush each other by suddenly sending people information very late in the day. Nowadays the protocol states that all the parties must get together as soon as possible, providing each other with as much information as possible, to try and see whether the claim can be settled before the Court has to be involved.

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Sometimes we as solicitors throw around jargon which is difficult to understand and we often talk about things like liability, but what does liability mean? It sounds like something you owe doesn’t it? But in fact it isn’t, liability is where when we look at the other side and see are they going to be liable for your accident? So we need to look at what their duties are in law, whether they’ve been negligent, to decide whether in your particular circumstances they’re going to have to pay out. A party will only have to pay you compensation if they have some liability for the accident and therefore the injury that you have suffered.

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Contributory Negligence

We may have had to discuss with you contributory negligence. We often call this ‘con neg’ for short which doesn’t help matters when you’re trying to follow that it is that we’re trying to tell you as solicitors. Contributory negligence is, in short, an allegation made by defendants that you are partly responsible for your own accident and it might happen if you were walking along and you tripped over, they might say well you should have watched where you were going so you’re partially responsible. If you’re driving a car and not wearing a seatbelt, or you didn’t cause the accident but the fact that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt means that you’re contributory negligent for the injury that you suffered, because if you had been taking steps to protect yourself you wouldn’t have had the same injuries. So these allegations come in and when we get them and they say your client is contributory negligent for some reason or other, we will have to discuss that with you. It doesn’t mean we agree with them, but is it an issue that we will have to take on board and see whether or not we agree with them or not.

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Another word that’s used quite frequently in Personal Injury lawyer’s offices is quantum. We talk about quantum a lot, it’s a funny word, it sounds a bit Latin and people perhaps don’t understand what we mean by quantum, but it’s really simple. All it is, is how much your claim is worth. So, when we talk about the quantum of damages, we’re talking about how much you’re likely to get as a result of part of your injury, or all of your injury claim, depending on which element we’re talking about. Whether it’s just the injury or your financial losses. If it’s both then that is the full amount of quantum, if it’s just quantum relating to your injury claim, then that’s just injury quantum.

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