what is a personal injury?
A personal injury is a physical or mental injury that another person inflicts on your body. this typically arises from a traffic accident (including e-scooter accidents), an accident at work, or simply due to someone else’s negligence, such as botched medical procedures.
There are many ways a personal injury can arise, and therefore many ways one can claim compensation. the most common way, however, is to file an action for negligence.
filing a negligence claim
To claim under the tort of negligence, you will need to show that the person you are suing against:
- I owed you a duty of care;
- breached that duty of care due to a wrongful act or omission, resulting in your personal injury; and
- caused damage of a foreseeable nature.
You can find more information in our other article on suing for negligence.
Note that the court may reduce the amount claimed if you are found to be contributory negligent (ie, your own negligence contributed to the accident). You may be considered contributory negligent if you fail to take reasonable care of yourself.
for example, if you recklessly cross the street and thus end up in an accident, the court may reduce the amount of damages (i.e. monetary compensation) you can claim, compared to if you had been in an accident while you used the crosswalk.
The amount by which damages will be reduced depends on how relevant your contributory negligence was to the personal injury sustained.
For example, if you would still have been injured despite taking reasonable precautions to prevent the accident from occurring, your damages may not be substantially reduced.
What damages can I claim?
You can claim damages for your personal injury if you can show liability (ie fault) on the part of the other party. this will be to compensate you for any physical and mental suffering it has caused you.
In this regard, you may want to run the Singapore Law Academy Car Accident Claims Online Stimulator which will show how liable the other party may be for the accident. You can also get an estimate of the amount of damages you can claim for your injury.
However, please note that the stimulator only provides basic information and does not predict what will happen if your case goes to court. therefore, it is important to consider how the court will calculate damages and what factors it will take into account (see below).
Generally, you can claim two forms of damages:
- general damage; and
- special damage.
- 3 years from the first time the injury was sustained; or
- 3 years from the date you first obtained the knowledge necessary to bring the action,
You may also be awarded punitive damages and costs to cover your legal fees.
General damages are damages that compensate for losses that arise naturally from the injury. this includes pain and suffering, loss of future income, and loss of limbs.
To prove pain and suffering, you must be conscious at the time of injury, and the amount claimable would depend on your ability to feel pain and whether the pain is merely temporary.
You can find more information in our other article on how to quantify pain and suffering.
how to calculate general damage
To estimate future pain and suffering and medical expenses, courts generally use a reference book titled General Damages Assessment Guidelines to estimate the amount of damages that one must claim.
for example, in the case of quek yen fei v yeo chye huat, quek had been in a traffic accident caused by yeo. As a result of the accident, Quek had to have his right leg amputated.
The court in this case followed the reference book which provided a range of $40,000 to $70,000 for the pain and suffering of a below-the-knee leg amputation.
The court later decided to increase the limit to $80,000 since Quek, then 20 years old, had previous surgery to save his leg and was still in pain even after 4 years had passed since the accident.
To calculate future lost income, the court uses a “multiplier-multiplier” method.
the multiplier refers to the number of years you have until retirement (that is, the period of time you are expected to live, but not earn, due to the injury), and the multiplicand refers to the annual loss of earnings to suffer as a result of your injury.
This is then multiplied by a discount rate to take into account the risk of premature death, among other things. the final amount would be damages for lost income.
In the case of loss of limbs resulting from accidents at work, the Workers’ Injury Compensation Act (WICA) prescribes the amount of damages that employees can claim. this is calculated using the following formula:
average monthly earnings × age multiplier × % loss of earning capacity due to permanent disability
The relevant age multiplication factor and the percentage of permanent disability can be found in the third and first Wica calendars respectively.
for example, if your average monthly salary is $2,000, you are 59 years old, and you lost an arm at the elbow in an accident, the relevant age multiplication factor would be 102 according to the third wica schedule, while the the percentage of loss of your earning capacity will be 75%. therefore, her estimated compensation amount would be 2,000 x 102 x 75% = $153,000.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website provides a helpful calculator to calculate the amount of compensation you can claim for your injuries.
Special damages compensate for financial losses incurred directly as a result of the accident. Said damages include compensation for medical consultations/treatments, hospitalization and transportation for medical visits.
To claim special damages, you will need to prove your claims with clear evidence, such as your hospital and medical bills.
The court will also consider whether these bills were reasonably incurred. this means that if you incurred a higher bill at a private hospital instead of going to a general hospital, the court will consider whether the higher bill resulted in better treatment than at a general hospital.
If the higher bill did not result in better treatment for you, the court can only award you special damages for part of your medical expenses, to the extent of the amount you could reasonably have incurred. this would be a matter of evidence proven in court.
Punitive damages are damages awarded to the victim to punish the other party for their behavior. the singapore court of appeal has held that punitive damages may be awarded when the other party’s conduct is “so outrageous as to warrant punishment, deterrence and conviction.”
however, when the other party has been sanctioned by criminal law, the court may not award further punitive damages to punish the defendant.
costs to cover your legal fees
Along with damages, you may also be able to get the other party to pay legal fees for bringing your personal injury claim. See our other article for more information on the costs of litigation.
how to file a personal injury claim
How to file a personal injury claim depends on the type of injury claim you have suffered.
If you have suffered personal injury due to a traffic accident, your claims are usually handled by your insurer, especially if you are the driver.
Regardless, it may be best to retain a personal injury attorney to handle the claim and ensure that the process proceeds in your best interests to claim maximum compensation for your injuries. You can read more in our guide to claiming for traffic accidents.
If you are an employee who suffered a workplace injury, you may choose to claim under wica. you do not need a lawyer for this. rather, you should report the accident to your employer as soon as possible, presenting your original medical certificate and original medical bills.
Your employer must pay your medical bills and sick leave. you or your next of kin should also make an incident report to mom here.
If you have a permanent disability, claims processing will begin automatically once your employer informs the mother of the accident. she must attend a medical appointment(s) to have the extent of her injury assessed so that the mother can calculate the amount of the claim, which will then be paid by her employer. See our other article for more information on claiming workers’ compensation for workplace accidents.
Alternatively, instead of claiming compensation through Mom and Wica, you can choose to sue your employer in court. For this, as with other personal injury claims, you may want to hire an attorney to help you.
You can contact personal injury attorneys through our platform.
If you file a permanent injury claim under wica law, you must submit the claim application form within 1 year of the accident.
If your wica claim is for a non-permanent injury, there is no deadline to file your claim, but you should try to file as soon as possible.
for cases other than wica law, you must file your personal injury claim within:
whatever happens later.
The second “when you first gained consciousness” scenario occurs when you experience latent defects from the injury, such as internal damage due to exposure to toxic chemicals. latent defects are injuries that are not apparent at the time of the accident, but can only surface after a period of time.
The focus in this case is whether you have taken reasonable steps to become aware of your injury, and it is as of this date that the limitation period begins, even if more than 3 years have passed since your injury.
The limitation period can also be extended if you have a disability, and will only start from the date you believe you are no longer disabled.
Notwithstanding the foregoing statute of limitations, it is recommended that you contact an attorney and/or file your claim as soon as possible.
What evidence do you need for your personal injury claim?
Usually you will need to provide hospital bills and medical certificates if you want to claim your medical bills.
If you’re claiming for lost future earnings, you’ll likely also need your income tax returns and pay stubs as proof of your wages for the court to accurately calculate your future earnings.
If you have hired a lawyer, he/she should be able to advise you on other evidence you may also need.
duration of a personal injury claim
The length of your personal injury claim depends on the complexity of your case.
If your case is simple and your injury is relatively minor, your case could be resolved in 1-3 months. If you have a more serious injury, your case could take up to 6 months (1.5 years) to resolve.
Should I hire a personal injury attorney?
Personal injury lawsuits, especially negligence cases, can involve complex legal arguments to prove that the other party is responsible for your injury.
Therefore, it may be best if you hire a personal injury attorney to guide you through the process, especially for more serious claims. this is even more serious if you cannot reach an agreement with the other party.
A settlement is when both parties agree to an amount of compensation in exchange for your giving up your right to take the matter to court.
A personal injury attorney would be extremely helpful in:
- tell you what documents you will need to obtain for your claim;
- advise you on your own liability in the event of contributory negligence; and
- Precisely navigate through the many legal arguments and defenses that may be presented in the trial process.
Even in settlement cases, an attorney would be helpful in evaluating what your estimated compensation amount should be so that you are not prejudiced during negotiations.
however, if your claim is minor and can be handled by your insurer, you may prefer to file your claim with the insurance company and let them handle the compensation amount, without seeking legal advice.
Similarly, if you are applying for work injury compensation under wica law, you do not need a lawyer, as your case will be handled by mom, as noted above.
please note that in singapore, lawyers cannot enter into any champerty or “no win, no fee” settlements, in which they are paid a proportion of the amount of your claim and only if they win the case.
Therefore, it is best to negotiate fees with the attorney and come to a fee agreement once you ask them to represent you.
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