Claims Glossary Image - open book

Injury claims glossary

We’ll be the first to admit that for most people, the world of personal injury claims and all the medical and legal terms used can be very confusing and daunting. We’re here to help so we’ve put together a straight-forward explanation of what the most commonly used terms mean:

Amnesia

Partial or total loss of the ability to remember things. May be retrograde (inability to remember before the injury) or anterograde (cannot remember after the injury).

Aneurism

A balloon like deformity in the wall of a blood vessel. This may eventually burst, causing a haemorrhage.

Annuity

A policy purchased with a lump sum which will provide an annual income either of a fixed sum or a sum that may grow in accordance with the rate of inflation. An annuity will normally last for the lifetime of the person who receives the income. The cost of purchasing an annuity will depend on the age of the person who is to receive the income and the amount of income required. Annuities are often used as part of a structured settlement.

Anoxia

Lack of oxygen supply to the brain (also called hypoxia).

Aphasia

May be ‘expressive’ (inability to express oneself clearly in speech) or ‘receptive’ (inability to understand what is said).

Apraxia

Inability to plan and perform purposeful movement – whilst still having the ability to move and be aware of movement.

Ataxia

Abnormal and unsteady movements due to the loss in co-ordination of the muscles.

Asset management

The investment of large sums of money, normally in stocks and shares or other interest bearing accounts for the purpose of either producing an income or growing the original capital sum or a mixture of both. Clarke Willmott’s asset management department specialise in this type of work and currently handle in excess of £40million in investments on behalf of clients.

Blood clots

See haematoma.

Brachial plexus

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves arising from the base of the neck that supply the shoulder, arm and hand. Damage to these nerves can lead to complete loss of use of the limb.

Brain injury

The brain is the highly developed mass of nervous tissue that forms the upper end of the central nervous system and sits in the skull.

Injury to the brain can be caused through an accident or as a consequence of disease. The complexity of brain function means that the effect of an injury or illness can be very difficult to predict.

Accidental injury includes such things as concussion or bruising to the brain, whereas a more serious injury might cause a fracture of the skull leading to physical damage to the underlying tissue.

Care packages / care regime

A term used to describe the mix of case manager, occupational therapists, nurses and domestic carers employed to assist an injured client. Care packages are normally tailored to the specific needs of an injured person. The package might change according to changes in need and will normally be set up following a very full assessment of those needs by the case manager and the production of a care plan.

Care plan

The written description of the proposed care package necessary to meet the individuals needs. A care plan is normally produced by the case manager, although it can undertaken by the care expert or sometimes by Social Services departments following a community care assessment.

Case managers

In claims involving very serious injury your solicitor will often appoint a case manager to help coordinate the rehabilitation process.
Case managers are most often occupational therapists who have specific experience in the type of injury in question. They will often be a member of a professional body such as the British Association of Brain Injury Case Managers (BABICM) or the Case Managers Society of UK (CMSUK).

CSF – Cererbrospinal Fluid

Clear, colourless fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain and spinal cord.

Civil claim

Civil claims arise from disputes between individuals or companies which are resolved by the Courts. For example, somebody injured in a road accident may bring a claim for compensation against the individual who caused the accident. Such claims are dealt with by the Civil Courts as opposed to criminal matters such as drink-driving, theft, assault etc. which are dealt with by the criminal courts.

Closed head injury

This is damage to the brain in which there is no penetration through the scalp or skull to the brain tissue itself. It is often caused when the brain is thrown forwards or backwards or rotated sharply within the skull.

Cognition

General term used to cover all areas of intellectual functioning. Includes skills such as thinking, remembering, planning, understanding, concentrating and using language.

Coma

State of unconsciousness. Depth of coma is measured by Glasgow Coma Scale.

Common law duty

Civil and criminal law is divided into that which arises from specific legislation, such as the Road Traffic Act 1988, and law that has arisen from the decisions of the courts over time. This latter type is known as the common law. Under the common law certain people owe a duty to others. For example, those who drive on the road owe a duty to other road users not to drive in a way that might cause injury to others. See also negligence.

Community care assessment

An assessment under Section 47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act. The assessment will normally be undertaken by the Social Services. The purpose of the assessment is to decide which services the local authority provide are needed by the person being assessed. This normally relates to the provision of care and accommodation.

Conditional fee agreement (‘No win, no fee’)

Agreements between a solicitor and client relating to the payment of the solicitors costs in order to fund your medical negligence or injury claim. The agreement will normally provide that the solicitor will work without payment from the client unless the solicitor is successful in recovering compensation for the client. At this point the solicitor would normally recover his fees from the losing party together with an additional ‘success fee’ for taking the risk of acting without payment in the first place. These agreements are often called no win no fee agreements.

Contractures

Stiffness and resistance to stretching in joints and muscles which are not used regularly.

Contracoup

Bruising of brain tissue on the opposite side to where the blow was struck.

Contributory negligence

Claims for compensation normally rely on the common law of negligence. For example, a car driver owes a common law duty to other road users to drive carefully. In the event of an accident, however, often more than one person is at fault because they have been negligent.
In those circumstances the Court can apportion blame between those involved. This is most often expressed as a percentage. For example, if each party was equally to blame the apportionment of contributory negligence would be 50% to each party.

Contusion

A bruise caused by a blow with a blunt object.

Coroner

Coroners are appointed by the Lord Chancellor’s department. Their main function is to hold inquests into violent, unnatural, sudden or unexpected deaths. Coroners are appointed to deal with specific parts of the country.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal deals with appeals from decisions made by the High Court or County Court in both civil and criminal cases. The Court of Appeal normally sits in London and decisions made by it are binding on the High and County Courts. The Court of Appeal is itself bound by the decisions of the House of Lords.

Court of Protection

The part of the Court system that is responsible for dealing with the affairs of those people who cannot make decisions for themselves. See also deputy and receiver.

Craniotomy

Operation to open the skull.

Criminal investigation

The investigation of criminal activity is conducted by the police.Criminal activity can relate to road use such as speeding or drink driving or to matters such as theft, assault, fraud etc. When the police have concluded their investigation a decision on whether to charge somebody with a criminal offence will often be made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) having considered the evidence produced by the police.

CAT Scan – Computerised Axial Tomography

A series of X-rays taken of different levels of the brain. Used to identify bruising and clots on the brain.

Damages

The term damages is normally used to refer to compensation that a person is entitled to receive. It is often divided between general damages for the injury suffered, and special damages, which are the other financial losses and expenses that relate to the accident and injury.

Deputy

Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which came into full effect in October 2005, the role of Receiver will disappear and be replaced by role of Deputy. A deputy will be appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions on behalf of somebody who cannot do so themselves by reason of injury or illness (often called a patient). A deputy can be appointed to make decisions on either the patient’s personal welfare or their property and affairs, or both as is appropriate.

Diffuse axonal injury

Widespread tearing of nerve fibres across the whole of the brain.

Direct payments

A Social Services department having completed a community care assessment may decide that rather than offer somebody care or accommodation, they will instead offer a direct payment of money to enable that person to source their own care/accommodation.

Disinhibition

Difficulty in controlling urges and impulses to speak, act or show emotions.

Dysarthia

Difficulty in speaking, due to weakness and lack of co-ordination of the muscles used for speech.

Dysgraphia

Difficulty in writing.

Dysphagia

Difficulty in swallowing.

Dysphasia

May be either expressive (difficulty in expressing oneself in speech), or receptive (difficulty in understanding what is being said).

Dyspraxia

Difficulty in planning and performing purposeful movements (whilst still having the ability to move and be aware of movements).

Dystonia

Abnormal muscle tone.

Epilepsy

Abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Involves seizures or fits affecting parts of, or all of, the body.

Executive functions

Planning, organising, problem solving, sequencing, self-monitoring and controlling behaviour.

Fatal accidents

An accident causing the death of one or more of those involved.

Funding

This term is normally used to refer to the method by which a solicitor’s costs are to be paid. For example, funding by a conditional fee agreement or by legal expenses insurance.

Future loss

Claims for damages are normally calculated in relation to those losses and expenses that occurred up to the time of the settlement of the claim or trial, and those that will occur after that date. The latter losses and expenses are referred to as the future loss. This may typically include claims for future loss of income and the cost of future care and accommodation.

Haematoma

The collection of blood in pools or clots. This forms a swelling, which compresses the brain around it.

HSE – Health and Safety Executive

This is the Government body responsible for ensuring compliance with health and safety at work law and regulations. HSE inspectors have powers similar to police officers to enter work premises and interview members of staff. They will often conduct an investigation following an accident at work and if they consider that there has been a breach of health and safety law they can bring criminal charges against either the company or an individual. For certain types of business, such as offices and shops, this power is delegated to the Environmental Health Department of the local council. Environmental Health Inspectors perform a similar function.

Hemiparesis

Weakness of one side of the body.

Hemiplegia

Paralysis of one side of the body.

House of Lords

The most senior Court in the country whose decisions are binding on all other Courts.

Hydrocephalus

Build-up of fluid in the spaces inside and around the brain, which can cause injury to the brain.

Hypoxia

See anoxia.

Immediate needs assessment

In a case of serious injury one of the first tasks your solicitor will perform is to obtain the agreement of the other parties insurance company to pay for an immediate needs assessment. This would normally be performed by an experienced occupational therapist. The purpose is to decide whether anything can be done immediately to aid or assist the injured party. This might be by the provision of additional nursing care or equipment or the adaptation of property.

Infarct

Area where brain cells have died as a result of loss of blood supply.

Inflation

The periodic rise in prices. This is measured in a number of different ways – commonly the retail price index which measures increases over a wide variety of goods and services; or the average earnings index, which is limited to increases in wages; or the annual survey of hours and earnings, which breaks down wage increases between various job types. These measures are important in calculating the likely cost of, for example, future nursing care.

Interim payments

In claims for compensation it is often possible to secure a payment of part of the award prior to the final settlement of the claim. These payments are generally called interim payments and can be important in providing day-to-day living expenses if the injured person cannot work, or for covering the cost of medical treatment.

Intracranial

Inside the skull.

Inquest

A type of court hearing. The specific purpose of which is to decide who a deceased person was, and how, where and when they came by their death. An inquest is presided over by a Coroner. The Coroner is specifically prevented from expressing any opinion relating to any potential civil or criminal liability for the death.

Legal expenses insurance

A legal expense insurance policy help pay for a solicitor’s fees when acting for you in certain circumstances. Many people have legal expenses insurance which has been provided, for example, together with a motor or house insurance policy, or through a credit card, trades union or motoring organisation such as the AA or RAC. Such policies often cover the legal fees involved in bringing a claim for compensation in the event of a serious injury. Your solicitor will guide and assist you in investigating whether you have this type of cover.

Loss of earnings

When somebody is injured they are often unable to work while they recover from their injuries. If the injury is serious they may never return to their pre accident employment or perhaps never be fit for any sort of paid work again. As a consequence of any of these situations the injured person will suffer a loss of earnings. The precise nature of the loss will depend on the circumstances. Loss of earnings can be ‘claimed for’ losses that have already occurred and those that may occur in the future. See also future loss.

Lump sum

Compensation is commonly paid by way of a single lump sum at the conclusion of the claim. From this sum money that has been paid in advance, interim payments are deducted. Alternatively, parts of the compensation payment can be paid by smaller payments over agreed intervals, such as monthly or quarterly. These are called periodic payments.

MRI Scanner – Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner

A scanning machine that enables highly detailed pictures of the brain and other parts of the body to be taken. MRI uses a strong magnet rather than X-rays.

Medical experts

Following serious injury the individual will be admitted to hospital under the care of a consultant relevant to the type of injury. On discharge from hospital medical care will often continue to be provided via the hospital outpatients department and/or GP. The written records produced during treatment are important evidence of the nature and extent of an injury, however, in order to prove the existence and extent of an injury your solicitor will need to instruct an independent medical expert. This would not be the same person who provided the treatment in hospital. In serious injury cases often more than one expert is instructed and they may well be asked to produce more than one report if recovery takes a long time. A medical expert will examine the injured person, consider the medical records and then produce a written report. The written report will stand as evidence in the claim. Getting the right medical experts is vitally important.

Monthly payments

See periodic payments.

Multiple fractures

People involved in high impact incidents often suffer a number of broken bones over widespread parts of the body. When taken individually these might be unpleasant, but not catastrophic or life threatening.

When taken together they can be both of those. This type of injury is referred to as ‘multiple fractures’ and are dealt with by the Catastrophic Injury team at ClarkeWillmott.

Negligence

A breach of the common law duty of care will often be an act of negligence. For example, if you drive on the road in a dangerous manner that will be considered negligent. Such action will only give rise to a claim for damages if, as a result of that negligence, somebody is hurt.

There must be a clear link between the negligent behaviour and the injury.

No win no fee agreements

See conditional fee agreement.

Oedema

Excess fluid in the body’s tissues, causing swelling.

Open head injury

An injury where the skull is broken open by a blow to the head.

Patients

Somebody who has suffered an injury. Such people are often referred to as patients. Their affairs are dealt with by the Court of Protection and by the appointment of a receiver or a deputy.

Pension claims

If an injured person is unable to work, either permanently or over a limited period, then there is a possibility that they might not only lose wages but also suffer a loss of pension entitlement. It will be necessary to look at the pension arrangements and contact the pension company to ascertain and calculate any potential loss.

Periodic payments

The Courts have the power when making an award of compensation to direct that some of the award be paid not as a single lump sum, but periodically at appropriate intervals. The interval might be monthly, quarterly of even annually. Such periodic payment orders are often made in respect of the cost of future care and will be designed to meet the cost of care for as long as it is required.

Perseveration

Involuntary prolonged repetition of words or actions.

Police investigation

See criminal investigation.

PTA – Post Traumatic Amnesia

The period after being unconscious when there may be confused behaviour and inability to remember continuous events.

Proprioception

Perception of the position and movement of body, limbs and head.

Public funding of care

Following a community care assessment the Social Services department may decide to provide care and accommodation themselves or to provide direct payments to assist the person buying their own care and accommodation. Both of these types of provision are sometimes referred to as public funding of care.

PGO – Public Guardianship Office

The administrative branch of the Court of Protection. The Office of the Public Guardian is responsible for supervising Receivers and Deputies.

Receiver

When somebody has suffered injury (typically a brain injury) or illness to the extent that they are incapable of managing their affairs they are known as a patient. The affairs of a patient are managed by the Court of Protection (COP). To assist in this the COP will appoint a Receiver, who may be a relative of the patient or a professional person, commonly a solicitor. The Receiver has day-to-day power to make decisions on behalf of the patient. From October 2007 the position of Receiver lapsed (although existing receivers will continue to act as before) and their place has now been taken by the new post of Deputy.

Rehabilitation process

Following a serious injury initial medical care will be provided by the hospital. Once discharged from hospital, however, the injured person will very often have an ongoing need for treatment or therapy to assist them in making the fullest recovery possible. This work is often done by occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and neuro psychologists, etc. This part of a person’s treatment is often referred to as the rehabilitation process.

Rehabilitation protocol

Following the start of a claim for compensation following a serious injury your solicitor will often arrange for an immediate needs assessment. This assessment will be performed under the rehabilitation protocol that most specialist solicitors and major insurance companies have agreed to. The protocol provides that the immediate needs assessment is intended only to provide assistance in the injured person’s rehabilitation and not to produce evidence that might be used in any subsequent court proceedings. Therefore, unless both parties agree otherwise, the content of the immediate needs assessment cannot be used in court.

Shunt

Device to remove excess fluid or divert blood.

Skull fractures

May be either a compound fracture (a crack in the skull) or a depressed fracture (in which bone fragments are pushed inwards into the skull).

Spasticity

An involuntary increase in muscle tone (tension).

Statutory duty

In the same way that the common law can impose a duty, a similar type of duty can be imposed by an Act of Parliament, otherwise known as legislation. For example, to drive in excess of the prescribed speed limit would be a breach of this statutory duty. It would also potentially be a breach of the common law duty to drive carefully.

Breaches of statutory duty can in themselves provide an entitlement of compensation, but only if the cause of the injury is linked to the breach of duty.

Statutory care provision

Following a community care assessment a Social Services department may well decide that a person is in need of care and accommodation. In certain circumstances the Social Services department have an obligation imposed by law to provide a minimum level of care. This is often called the statutory care provision.

Structured settlements

This is a type of award of compensation where the money is in part paid by way of a lump sum and in part by an annuity. Such settlements can only be achieved by agreement of the parties and not imposed by the courts. They are rare now due to the introduction of periodic payments.

Tracheostomy

An operation to open up blocked airways by cutting through the neck and inserting a plastic tube in to the windpipe.

Traumatic amputation

This phrase is normally used to describe the amputation of a limb that occurred during the course of an accident, rather than a procedure carried out subsequently in hospital. Whilst the amputation of a limb is always serious, traumatic amputations tend to be much more severe and they are very often life threatening.

Trust

On settlement of a claim for compensation the injured party will often receive a lump sum. If they are in receipt of means tested benefits then the receipt of the lump sum may well disqualify them from that benefit. In these circumstances benefit payment can often be protected by placing the lump sum in a personal injury trust.

Ventilator

Also called a respirator. A machine that pumps oxygen-enriched air into the lungs when they are not working efficiently; this encourages quiet breathing and creates the best conditions for healing the brain.

Ventricle

A cavity in the brain that makes and contains cerebrospinal fluid.

Contact a personal injury solicitor

If you’d like to discuss a personal injury compensation claim, on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.