Most people have been, or at least know someone who has been, involved in a road traffic accident. It can be an extremely stressful experience and can have life changing consequences for those involved. Following a road traffic accident, you may be left with damage to your vehicle and, worse still, you may have sustained injuries.
If you have been involved in an accident that was not your fault or you believe another driver was partly to blame for the accident you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
A common misconception about road traffic accidents is that only the drivers of vehicles are entitled to make a claim for compensation. This is not true, passengers who have been injured as a result of the negligence of either the driver who they are travelling with or any other road user can make a claim for compensation.
If you are unfortunate enough to have been involved in a road traffic accident it is important that you follow the checklist provided below to ensure you protect your own interests;
1. Stop the car as soon as possible – it’s an offence not to do so;
2. Turn off the engine;
3. Switch the hazard lights on;
4. Check for any injuries to yourself or your passengers;
5. If it’s a minor collision and there are no injuries, make a note of it just in case the other people later try to claim for an injury;
6. Call the police and an ambulance immediately if anyone is hurt or if the road is blocked;
7. Try to remain as calm as possible – its normal to be shaken after an accident, take a few deep breaths and try to take stock of the situation the best you can. And don’t lose your temper;
8. Don’t apologise or admit responsibility for the accident until you’re completely aware of what happened – this can protect you from liability if it wasn’t your fault.
Whether or not to call the police seems to be a grey area for most people when they are involved in a road traffic accident. It is always advisable to make a report to the police even if it is a minor accident where no one is hurt. However, it is very important to call the police if someone if the other driver leaves the scene of the accident, if you think the other driver is under the influence or has no insurance or you believe the accident may have been caused deliberately.
In any event, the police should be informed within 24 hours of the accident. Failure to report an accident is an offence so care should be taken in ensuring that this protocol is followed.
If the accident caused damage or injury you are legally obliged to share your name and address with everyone involved in the accident and swap insurance information with the other driver. You should also try to find out if the driver of the other vehicle is the registered owner of the vehicle. If they are not, you should try to find out who is the registered owner (it could be a company car for example).
What Details Should I Record?
We have complied a useful checklist that should be followed in the aftermath of an accident. This information will be useful if you intend to pursue a claim for vehicle damage, personal injury or both. You should ensure the following details are recorded;
1. The make, model, colour, and number plate of the vehicles involved in the accident and/or pictures of them;
2. The time and date of the accident;
3. The driving conditions, including the weather, lighting and road quality; this should include any road markings, whether the road is wet and whether the road surface is poorly maintained;
4. The nature of the damage caused to the vehicles;
5. Any injuries to drivers, passengers or pedestrians;
6. The name and contact details of any witnesses;
7. Take photographs of the scene with your phone. It is particularly important to capture the position of the cars involved and any damage caused to the cars;
8. If it was a single car accident and damage was caused to private property or a parked car, you should leave your details. Honesty does pay in cases of this nature. If you are caught on CCTV or by a witness to the accident and you have left the scene without taking these steps you could be prosecuted for leaving the scene of an accident.
How We Can Help
Don’t worry if you have not followed all of the steps outlined above. Failure to follow each and every guideline will not necessarily jeopardise your case and you should still be able to pursue a claim for compensation. If any damage has been caused to your vehicle or you have sustained any personal injury our expert road traffic accident solicitors can help you to make a claim for compensation.
If you decide that you want to make a claim for compensation you can arrange an appointment with one of our accident at work solicitors and they will walk you through the claims process. The claims process can vary but will generally take the following format:
1. Free Initial Consultation – One of our specialist solicitors will meet with you and take instructions from you on the accident. We will ask you to provide the details you recorded at the scene of the accident at this point;
2. Letter of Claim – After taking initial instructions we will send a letter of claim to the third party’s insurance company outlining the negligence and breaches that we are alleging caused or contributed to the accident;
3. Dealing with Vehicle Damage – We will then obtain an engineer’s report to detail the damage that was done to our client’s vehicle and the costs associated with repair of the damage. This will then be forwarded to the third party’s insurance company for their consideration;
4. Medical evidence – If you have been to the GP or hospital as a result of this accident, we will obtain the relevant medical notes and then organise an appointment with a specialist medical consultant who will provide a report on your injuries;
5. Decision on liability – Within around three months from the date the letter of claim is sent the third-party insurance company should provide a decision on liability. If liability is admitted, then settlement negotiations will begin, and we will negotiate payment of your vehicle damage costs and compensation for any personal injury suffered;
6. Court Proceedings – If liability is denied, we will consult with the client and if we believe the case is worth pursuing, we will issue Court proceedings against the third party. Court proceedings can also be issued in a case where liability has been admitted if we feel the compensation being offered by the insurance company is not sufficient. Our expert solicitors will advise clients on their options, but the final decision will always be made by the client and we will ensure that their wishes are carried out.
This is a hypothetical scenario which may help you to understand the process of making a claim for compensation if you have been involved in a road traffic accident:
Mary is a 35-year-old mother who was travelling in her car alone on her way to work. As Mary approached a roundabout another car travelling at speed collided with the rear of her vehicle. Mary was very shocked and after making sure she was OK she turned off the engine and got out to speak to the driver of the other vehicle. The other driver admitted did not admit fault but agreed to exchange insurance details with Mary. There were no witnesses.
Mary then decided to go to the hospital as she had a sore back and neck. Mary then came to PA Duffy and Company for her free consultation and our road traffic accident solicitor sent a letter of claim to the third party’s insurance company. An engineer was then sent out to inspect Mary’s car and the scene of the accident and he provided a report which stated that the other driver was at fault. Mary’s solicitor then sent this to the insurance company.
Mary then attended with a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon who provided a report which stated that Mary had whiplash injuries and would recover in 2-3 months. The insurance company admitted liability and agreed to pay the £3,000 for repair of Mary’s vehicle as recommended by the engineer. Based on the medical report the insurance company made an initial offer of £2,500 for Mary’s injuries. However, following further negotiations between the insurance company and Mary’s solicitor the final settlement sum was agreed at £4,500. Both Mary and her solicitor were satisfied with this and the case was closed.