If you have suffered some degree of damage due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to make a claim for personal injury. Here is what you need to know about making personal injury claim.
In July, a video of a traffic accident went viral. It featured a car making an illegal right turn and hitting a girl crossing at the road junction. Netizens were divided on who was at fault: the pedestrian for not being cautious or the driver for being negligent. At the time of writing, the case is still under investigation.
What should you do the next time you get hurt in an accident that was not your fault? Do you know how to make a claim?
WHAT CONSTITUTES PERSONAL INJURY?
Personal injury can be physical or psychological, have long- or short-term effects, and covers a wide range of accidents. These accidents can be anything from whiplash sustained in a motor accident to a broken ankle from falling into a drain to cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence.
According to Mr Hoh Chin Cha, Managing Director of Hoh Law Corporation, “A common misconception is that pursuing such a claim is costly, with a large part of the claim taken up by legal costs. In reality, a large portion of the legal costs of the injured party is paid by the offending party’s insurer upon a successful claim.”
HOW DO I CLAIM FOR PERSONAL INJURY?
If you have suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of a third party, you will need to prove the liability of that party and justify the amount of damages you seek to claim in court.
Viviene Sandhu, a partner at Clifford Law who specialises in personal injury and family law, says, “In retaliation, the defendant could claim contributory negligence on your part — that you failed to take reasonable care of yourself and are thus partially responsible for causing the accident leading to your loss. He could also claim volenti non fit injuria — that you willingly took the risks.”
If contributory negligence is proven, you will receive a reduction of damages. For instance, an engineer hit by a mooring cable while taking a shortcut through a shipyard was apportioned 50% of the blame; the reasoning was that, as an experienced engineer, he should have known to enter via the main gate.
Most Common Personal Injury Claims
- Road traffic accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Slips and falls
- Falling objects or debris
- Beauty treatments by non-medical professionals
WHAT CAN BE CLAIMED?
There is no limit on damages that can be claimed, but the claim must be a result of the accident and proven so.
Claims fall broadly into two categories: general damages cannot be calculated exactly and are based on medical and specialist reports, while special damages are monetary losses suffered or expenditure incurred as a result of the injury caused by the accident that have to be strictly proven and specifically pleaded with documentary evidence.
A case from 2016 resulted in the largest payout in personal injury of S$8.65 million in damages. It was awarded to Ms Siew Pick Chiang, who was struck by a bundle of overhead cables while riding on a pavement. The cyclist suffered injuries on her head, face, neck, back and limbs, impairment in memory and cognitive ability, and serious traumatic stress disorder requiring 19 post-accident hospitalisations over seven years. Her frequent meltdowns disrupted various bodily functions, resulting in urine and faecal incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome and other health problems.
Siew sought to claim over S$26 million from the worksite contractor for medical expenses, hiring caregivers for herself and her son born six months after the accident, loss of earnings and taxi fares, among other things. However, unjustified expenses such as higher hospital expenses from a non-standard room and additional food costs catered for her guests, as well as non-evident claims such as caregiver fees for her child when the role was undertaken by her mother, were disallowed.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of amenities
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Future medical expenses
- Future transport expenses
- Costs of caregiver
- Medical expenses
- Transport expenses
- Nursing and care
- Hosehold expenses
- Damages/ loss of property
- Reimbursement to third party
- Pre-trial loss of earnings profits or reduced income
LAW OF NEGLIGENCE: RIGHTING A WRONG IN A NON-WORKPLACE CIRCUMSTANCE
You can take legal action against someone if you have been victimised by his negligent behaviour in circumstances such as traffic transgression, medical malpractice, property damage and unneighbourly misconduct. This is especially helpful if you have no contractual relationship — such as workplace compensation if the accident took place at work with the party you believe to be negligent — as there is no signed document you can refer to in order to recover compensation.
AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Sandhu’s clients have consulted her at various times, from immediately after the accident to just before time to file the case in court (within three years of the date of the accident) because they were not aware of their rights, were very badly injured and needed time to recuperate, or they attempted to negotiate with the fault-bearer directly before they realised the need for legal advice. She advises, “You should always see a specialist injury lawyer at the earliest available opportunity after an accident or incident.” Hoh concurs: “You should approach your legal professional at the earliest opportunity. The longer you delay, the greater the chances that crucial evidence or witnesses may go missing.” An example of evidence disappearing is CCTV footage being overwritten after a period of time has elapsed. He adds, “Evidence gathering is important at the early stages of an accident.”
Sandhu has this parting advice: “Do not hesitate to seek legal advice because most specialist law firms give a free consultation to personal injury clients.”
Summary of Claims Procedure
- Collection of all necessary documentation to prove damages
- Compliance with pre-writ protocols by notifying the other party’s insurer
- Commencement of legal proceedings with the writ
- Negotiations between parties, lawyers and/ or a judge to facilitate settlement of your claim
- Hearing before a judge if both parties cannot agree on liability or quantum
- Agree on settlement; if not, decided by the court
- Receive compensation
Misconception of claims
- Lack of knowledge: People do not make a claim because they are not aware of their rights.
- Lawyers cost a bomb: People do not consult a lawyer for fear of high costs. They are unaware that, for road traffic accidents, they are protected by the Motor Vehicles Act, which provides coverage for expenses that arise during a car accident. “You can approach your lawyer even if you are a victim of a hit-and-run case,” advises Hoh. “If the offending party cannot be found, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Singapore is obliged to consider your claim.”
- Suing = windfall: “People do not realise that there is a range in the compensation awarded for each injury in Singapore, which tends to be conservative compared to other countries such as the US,” says Sandhu. “They are often shocked to learn how little they are awarded in relation to the cost of living in Singapore and how they get more compensation for disability from work than for the actual pain and suffering.”