Road traffic accidents
Statistics show that many of us will have the misfortune to have at least one road traffic accident during our driving lives. Fortunately, the majority of these accidents do not result in serious injury to the drivers and/or the passengers involved.
However, if you are unfortunate enough to have been injured in a car crash (either as the driver or a passenger) – whether it is simple bruising and whiplash, or something more serious – it is worth finding out if you can claim compensation for those injuries, how long the claim will take and the potential costs involved in claiming.
Statistics show that most of us will have the misfortune to have at least one road traffic accident during our driving lives.
A road traffic accident is treated in the same way as any other type of accident claim. The injured party needs to establish that the accident is, at least partly, someone (or something) else’s fault.
Who will pay?
By law all drivers must have at least third party insurance cover. This means that their insurers will pick up the bill for compensation and legal costs if the driver causes an accident and injury to any other party (including any passengers, whether related to the driver or not).
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, or with a driver who doesn’t stop after the accident, then your claim is likely to be covered by an agreement operated by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, an organisation set up specifically to cover such incidents where there is on insurance.
If you are involved in a road traffic accident, then try and follow these basic steps:
- If you are involved in an accident in which someone other than you has been injured or damage has been caused to another’s property or animal, then you must stop and give your name and address (and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle if not you), your registration number, and insurance details if you have them, to any other parties involved.
- If such an accident occurs then you should report the accident to the police within 24 hours, if you have not stopped and/or not been able to provide your name and address, car registration number and insurance details to the other parties.
- Make sure you have a note of the make colour and model of any other vehicles involved, together with their number plate details.
- Note any damage to other vehicles involved.
- Make a note of the other drivers’ names and addresses.
- Make a note of any witness names and addresses.
- We advise that you call the police in all but the most straightforward of “prangs”.
- Do not make any admissions about liability (responsibility for the accident).
- If you have a camera or mobile phone with you take photographs of the vehicles, and damage caused and scene of the accident.
- Try and draw a rough sketch plan of the accident scene and where the vehicles ended up (if possible go back later and take some proper measurements).
- As soon as you are able to, write down your version of what happened.
- Notify your insurers as soon as you can after the accident.
- If you have suffered any injury at all get it checked out by a doctor.
- If the accident was not your fault and you have been injured then you should consider making a claim. You do not have to use the solicitors chosen for you by your insurers. They may be convenient for them, but not necessarily for you.
If your car is going to be off the road for any length of time then you may also be entitled to hire a car.
How long does a road traffic accident claim take?
The two aspects fundamental to any claim are responsibility, and medical confirmation of your injuries.
The differences of each individual case determine how long it will take for your compensation claim to actually convert into money in your pocket. Although you may feel that it is a simple straight forward case and you are undoubtedly due compensation, there are factors that can complicate matters and cause a delay.
The two major aspects that are fundamental to any claim and need to be definitively established are responsibility and medical confirmation of the full extent of your injuries.
- Establishing responsibility – not everyone is honourable, and not everyone sees the same version of right and wrong. Though it may be completely the other person’s fault that you came to suffer an injury, they may not accept responsibility. In the case of the other driver behaving in this way, your solicitor will need to establish through other means that they are responsible. This could take some time.
- Extent of your injuries – it is generally accepted that the symptoms of your injury should improve before a medical report is compiled. In the case of symptoms that show no sign of abating 3 to 6 months after the accident it would then be appropriate to obtain a medical report.
The cost of a road traffic claim
It is important to know what legal costs are involved in making a compensation claim, what insurance policies you have, how ‘no win no fee’ agreements work, and other ways of funding your claim.
Legal costs are your solicitor’s fees and disbursements. The fees being the time spent on your case and disbursements the sums of money your solicitor pays on your behalf, which includes money for your GP records and court fees.
You must be aware that if you lose your claim or recover less compensation that a previously made offer there are certain circumstances you may be required to pay the other side’s legal costs. However you may have insurance policies to cover these circumstances.
Insurance policies can include motor insurance, household contents insurance, travel insurance and personal accident insurance. To benefit from an insurance policy it is important to abide by the terms and conditions of the policy.
Providing you have these types of legal protection, after an accident you should tell your insurer as soon as possible. You should act quickly as your policy will state that you have a certain amount of time to contact them.
Your insurer will then send you a claim form which you should complete and send back. A solicitor will then contact you or if you have your own the insurance company will contact them asking for their opinion on the accident and prospects of winning.
This is when the claim process begins, providing the solicitor decides you have a good claim for compensation.
‘No win no fee’ claims
If you do not have a “Before the Event” insurance policy there are ways to fund legal costs. You can do it by a ‘no win no fee’ agreement (conditional agreement). This is an agreement whereby your lawyer will agree not to charge professional fees if you lose your case.
Usually, solicitors will also obtain for you an “After the Event” insurance policy.