If you currently have an ongoing personal injury claim, which is impacting your ability to work, you could be facing a new challenge in evidencing your loss of earnings due to Covid-19.
Minster Law Associate Solicitor Chris Bowman shares his insight into how you can help prepare yourself and which evidence you may need to gather.
What is a loss of earnings claim?
If you look at the headlines in any newspaper you will eventually find a report with a headline “Claimant wins pay out of £500k!” or something similar.
What the headline doesn’t tell you is the damages are paid out to put you in the position you would have been had the accident not happened – you don’t win anything. The injured person who got the £500k will have received something for their pain and suffering, but it’s more than likely a large portion of their damages will be for earnings they will lose, care they may need and other expenses they have suffered.
In a serious injury claim it is very common for a client to face long absences off work, if they ever return to work. Although you may qualify for sick leave or statutory sick pay, you can face prolonged periods without an income or see a decrease in their earnings. Covid-19 throws up an issue, which is beginning to be identified by the defendants – if the accident hadn’t happened, would the injured person have still been working anyway or would their income have been reduced?
What can you do to safeguard your claim?
The first thing you need to be doing, particularly if you’re self-employed, is applying for the assistance – this will help ease your financial burden.
If you are in traditional employment, reach out to your co-workers and find out what situation they’re in. If they are still working full time then that’s perfect, your solicitor can get confirmation from your employer. This provides a solid argument your earnings would not have changed.
However, if your co-workers have been furloughed, or made redundant, there are more roads to go down. People who were furloughed or made redundant are often able to seek alternative employment during this period. Start looking through job websites and taking screenshots of job adverts you would have been suitable – this will help to show the availability in your local area.
You can also provide details for any co-workers who found alternative work to your solicitor. Your solicitor can then look to gather a witness statement which shows they were able to find an alternate source of income.
As time passes memories fade, contacts with witnesses at work are lost and the evidence of plentiful job opportunities becomes more harder to get. So, you need to be gathering any information you can now to get ahead of the game.
What if you become fit for work but have been furloughed or made redundant?
If you do become fit for work during the lockdown period it is beneficial to return to work, even if it isn’t in the same industry as before. This builds a strong case you would have been able to find work throughout this period, regardless of any furlough or redundancy. If you stay off work, your claim will face a convincing argument from the defendant that you wouldn’t have worked anyway, and you could see your compensation reduced.
Clients who assist their solicitors will get the best outcome – after all you are best placed to know your local job market. At the bare minimum you need to be documenting job opportunities or if you’re able applying for them. You are in a good position, likely stuck at home, to jump into Google and start looking at jobs available in their area for which they could have applied for. If you are able to reach out to their co-workers it may only take them 15-minutes, then if they can pass on the contact details, your solicitor can do the rest. If you do become fit for work, do look to return – you are under an obligation to keep their loss of earnings to a minimum.