What are the initial steps in starting a personal injury claim?

Preserve the evidence and arrange for inspection of the accident scene.

The first thing that you should do – but that the Injuries Board won’t tell you to do – is to get a forensic engineer involved. They can attend at the scene of the accident (whether this is in a public place, on a road, in the workplace or somewhere else) and record what they have observed by taking measurements, sketches, notes and photographs. If liability becomes an issue later on this could turn out to be invaluable evidence and might be the difference between winning or losing your case.

It’s important to have your engineer attend at the scene as soon as possible after the accident. This is because vital evidence can be lost if any significant amount of time is allowed to elapse. For instance, broken glass and skidmarks on a roadway may turn out to be a ‘smoking gun’ when trying to work out who was at fault.
Likewise, workplace accidents have a nasty habit of being ‘cleaned up’ with impressive haste, meaning that pivotal evidence will be destroyed forever. This is why if you retain a solicitor who’s on the ball to act for you in a case such as this the first thing they’ll do is immediately write to the employer seeking an undertaking in writing that the scene will be preserved in precisely the state it was in immediately after the accident occurred until such time as your engineer has had an opportunity to perform a full inspection. If the employer will not co-operate it may be necessary to apply to court seeking an injunction preventing them from destroying important evidence.

With the ever-increasing use of CCTV cameras in the workplace and in public areas, the footage recorded by these cameras can be invaluable in establishing liability if your claim is contested. Accordingly, you should try to ascertain as quickly as possible whether there is any CCTV footage of your accident and, if so, you should get in contact with the operator of this surveillance system without delay to make sure that they provide you with a CD-ROM of the relevant footage before it is deleted.