As the roads grow busier year-on-year, Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are, sadly, a part of life – but would you know how to act in the event of a car collision?
What should I do after a car accident?
Firstly, stay calm. If you are in immediate danger or pose a danger to other road users, place your hazard lights on and try to carefully move your vehicle to a safe location. Vacate your car and leave the hazard lights on.
If you are in any doubt as to whether your car is roadworthy, leave the car where it is, still displaying the hazard lights, and make your way on foot to a safe area. If you, your passengers or the third party report any injuries, or you cannot move the vehicle and are worried it is a hazard, contact the emergency services for advice or medical attention.
What if the other vehicle flees from the scene of the accident?
If you feel that the other driver is going to leave the scene if the accident, try to memorise the registration of the car, or if it is safe and lawful, take a photograph of the registration plate. If you are unable to do so, pull into a safe place and report the incident to the police.
If it is possible, attempt to obtain details of any witnesses who may have seen the collision, asking them if they were able to take the third party’s registration number. The evidence of a witness can be crucial in determining liability for the accident and also proving the involvement of another car.
What information should I take from the other driver?
If the other driver has stopped and your vehicle is in a safe location, you will need to exchange personal information with the other driver. We would always recommend that you try to take the following details:
What if the third-party driver will not provide any of their details?
It is important to ensure that if you can, you obtain the other driver’s vehicle registration. An insurer can usually be identified if the registration is available from any organisation which has permission to use the askMID database, such as an insurer or firm of Solicitors.
If the other driver is not willing to release them to you, then it is likely they have breached The Road Traffic Act 1988, and you should report the matter to the police immediately.
Who should pay for the repairs to my vehicle?
If you were to blame for the collision, then it depends on the level of motor insurance cover that you have. A fully comprehensive policy means that your own insurers will cover the cost of repairs or pay you the pre-accident value of the vehicle in the event that it is uneconomical to fix the car. Beware though, a claim against your insurance will affect your no claims discount or you will lose a “life” from your no claims bonus protection.
This could result in your insurance premiums increasing. It is also likely that you will have to contribute your policy excess towards the cost of the repairs, or that the figure will be deducted from your total loss payment. In some situations, your insurers may agree to waive this.
If you had third-party fire and theft cover only, then you will not be covered and the repairs will be your own responsibility.
If the accident was not your fault, then the same will apply if you have fully comprehensive cover. The difference is that your own insurance company will attempt to recover its outlay from the insurers of the responsible party.
If you have third-party fire and theft cover in this instance, you may be able to seek the costs of the claim from the third-party insurers.
What if the third-party insurers contact me directly to help with my claim?
You may receive a text message or letter from the third party insurers offering you their assistance with a personal injury claim, to repair your vehicle or to provide a hire vehicle. This is called third-party capture.
Whilst accepting this kind offer may be fine and you could receive an excellent service, you have paid for insurance and by utilising the services of your own insurers, you give yourself the protection of being able to complain if the service you receive falls below your expectations.
It has been said that an insurer, who will be looking to minimise their own losses, is unlikely to have your best interest at heart and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome, certainly from a financial viewpoint.
Oakwood Solicitors regularly receives enquiries from people who have accepted an offer from a third party insurer, only to find that they have received a poor level of service from the repairing garage, with little assistance from the insurer to rectify the problem.
Another example of unsatisfactory behaviour we have seen on a number of occasions is that personal injury claims have been undervalued, leaving the victim out of pocket or left in a weaker position than they would have been had they had a Solicitor act for them. On some occasions, the injuries have not been investigated thoroughly enough to be able to accurately assess their physical cause and determine a prognosis, allowing the claim to be correctly valued.
If you have found yourself in a credit hire vehicle due to your own vehicle becoming unroadworthy, and the third party insurers contact you to offer you a replacement vehicle, you should contact your credit hire company to notify them of this immediately. If you do not, the credit hire firm may not be able to recover their charges from the third party insurers in part, or at all. This may leave you responsible to pay for any shortfall in the cost of the replacement car.
In summary, yes you could take up their offer of third party capture, but ask yourself how determined are the third party insurers likely to be to ensure that you receive justice, when it is at their own expense?
What if I was injured?
It is generally accepted by medical professionals that an injury can occur in a car accident even at speeds as low as five miles per hour. If you find that following a car accident you start to experience any symptoms, we would recommend that you seek medical attention.
Common symptoms experienced following a car accident are:
Symptoms can often feel worse early in the morning or late in the evening. They can often initially deteriorate before you see signs of improvement.
If your symptoms persist, we recommend you return to your GP and discuss the different forms of treatment that are available, such as physiotherapy or acupuncture.
Why should I seek medical attention?
It is important that you seek medical attention for a number of reasons.
Of course, if you are experiencing pain, then you should discuss this with a medical professional. It may be that over the counter medication is recommended, but importantly, you may require further investigations such as an X-Ray, or a more aggressive treatment regime to include a course of physiotherapy for example.
In addition to this, it is important that your injuries are documented in your records. This will help to support the fact that you have been injured and reduce the risk of the third party insurers disputing the fact.
Also, you have a legal duty to mitigate your losses. This means that you must try to keep you losses to a minimum. This extends to trying to take steps to reduce the level and duration of your symptoms in order to keep the level of compensation to a minimum too.
If you do not seek medical attention/treatment and it is later deemed that by doing so, the level of your injuries and their duration could have been reduced, the level of compensation that you are awarded could be negatively affected.
How do I make a claim?
Starting a claim is very simple. There are many claims management companies who advertise on national television, radio and the internet. Most of them will claim to work with the best law firms and that you will receive the best level of service possible.
Whilst this may be true in some cases, the claims management companies are likely to pass you to a Solicitor who is willing to pay them the most money for your business. This does not necessarily mean that they are the “best fit for you”. More often than not, the claims management company will have no further involvement in the progress of your case once the Solicitor has taken it on.
The same may also apply to a Solicitor that has been recommended by your insurers.
We would recommend that you contact a Solicitor directly and undertake your own due diligence. Speak to them. What are your first impressions? Are they talking to you clearly, in a legal jargon free language that you can understand? How long have they been around? What do their online reviews say about them?
Once you are happy to proceed with a firm, they should discuss funding arrangements with you and whether they feel you should consider any additional insurance protection for your claim. This is often known as After the Event Insurance, or ATE.
Most firms will offer to act on your behalf in a Conditional Fee Agreement, sometimes known as a ‘No-Win, No-Fee’ Agreement.
Oakwood Solicitors Ltd are able to deal with your car accident claim on such a basis.
How do I know which firms are Solicitors, and which are claims management companies?
You can check if a firm is a Solicitors practice by visiting the Law Society Website.
Also, if the company you are speaking with is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, then they will not be a bonafide law firm. You should be able to go to their website and find their SRA number on their Home Page, often in the footer of the page.
What is After the Event Insurance (ATE)?
An After the Event (ATE) insurance policy provides you with insurance cover and protects you from having to pay any legal costs and disbursements such as Court Fees and Doctors Fees incurred as a result of you bringing legal action.
This is only utilised if the claim fails and the cost of the insurance policy generally doesn’t need to be paid by you in the event that the claim is unsuccessful. If your claim is successful, the cost of the policy is normally deducted from your compensation. Your Solicitor should discuss whether ATE is right for you, what the risks are and whether a policy is necessary for your claim.
What can I claim for?
Aside from being able to make a claim for personal injury, we can assist you in recovering the following different types of expenses:
What do I need to do to claim expenses?
Ensure that you keep hold of any receipts you have received after purchasing anything such as painkilling medication, physiotherapy or incurring a fee for a taxi. If you have lost earnings as a result of the accident, you will be asked to provide 13 weeks’ worth of wage slips prior to the accident, and wage slips covering the period of the absence.
It may also be necessary to provide a copy of your employment contract if you received sick pay from your employers. This sick pay may be recoverable to your employers if the absence was caused by the negligence of a third party. If you are self-employed, you will need to provide profit and loss accounts to act as evidence that you have sustained a financial loss.
How are personal injury claims valued?
Injury claims are valued based on compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. A key determining factor is the length of the injury. This runs from the start of your symptoms until a complete resolution has been made. Of course, the level of pain experienced can differ from one injury to another.
Injuries can be minor in nature and effect only one part of the body, or they can be extremely painful, effecting multiple regions of the body. The extent of the injuries is another important feature to consider. The final factor is the impact the injury has had on your life.
This is likely to be determined by the first two considerations however, the impact on one’s life can be dependent on how active the victim is. For example, an active person in full time employment in the building industry, responsible for contributing income into a large family could potentially be effected severely by injuries sustained that have resulted in a long period of absence from work.
Once the cause and level of injury has been determined by an independent doctor, discussions regarding settlement of the claim can commence. (Subject to liability being agreed) A starting point for your Solicitor will be the Judicial Studies Guidelines. This is a guide, released by the Courts, which provides examples as to the levels of compensation that the common types of personal injury should attract.
In addition to this, details of cases that have been to Trial are reported on and can be reviewed in order to ascertain the likely awards that the Court would give. If a similar injury, causing a similar effect in the victims life can be found, then that case law can be used as a guide.
Can Oakwood Solicitors arrange private treatment for me?
Yes, if you instruct us to represent you, we will arrange an initial treatment assessment for you with a medical professional. If it is recommended that treatment (often physiotherapy) is undertaken, then we can arrange this for you at dates and times that are convenient for you.
The cost of this treatment will be sought from the insurers of the other driver. If the claim were to fail for any reason, the treatment charges would be waived.
How long will the claim take?
This depends on the nature of your claim. Yes, a simple straightforward case could take approximately three months to resolve.
This would involve submitting the claim, receiving an admission of liability from the third party insurers, obtaining your medical report from an independent doctor, (and that you are happy with the content of the report), having proactive negotiations with the third party insurers and agree a reasonable offer from them which is agreed and paid in a timely manner. In reality though, a claim that does not involve Court Proceedings is more than likely to take between six and nine months.
The reason for this is that in more cases than not, there will be issues to resolve. You must bear in mind that the insurers wish to minimise their losses and as such will attempt to argue any and every point they can think of to reduce a) the number of cases they pay compensation on and b) the amount they have to pay on each case. Examples of issues commonly raised by motor insurers are:
There may be cases that go on for longer. It could be that there are many of the above issues to resolve with the insurers and that it becomes necessary to involve the Courts. It may be that the injuries you have sustained are in some way unusual or are severe and that as a result of this, it is necessary to obtain multiple reports to be able to determine the nature of the injuries you have and the impact they have had on your life.
Will I need to go to Court?
Possibly, but only a very small percentage of claims need to involve the Courts, and fewer will run to Trial. It will boil down to how strong your case is, how reasonable the third party insurers are and your expectations and willingness to negotiate.
Why Oakwood Solicitors?
Oakwood Solicitors have been dealing with personal injury claims caused by car accidents since 2001. Many of our Solicitors and paralegals have been with us for over ten years, already having experience when they joined us.
We deal with claims that range between one thousand and hundreds of thousands of pounds, many of which will involve extensive claims for various kinds of expenses. When you instruct Oakwood Solicitors, you can expect a friendly, down to earth approach, together with an extensive knowledge of the field which will be used to fight tenaciously with the insurers to achieve the maximum level of compensation possible for you.
We are able to act for you on a No-Win, No-Fee basis, meaning that there is no risk to you, and you will not be charged if the claim is unsuccessful.
In January 2018, Mrs. Y from Colchester was involved in a Road Traffic Accident whilst driving her vehicle on an A road in Colchester. She approached a set of traffic lights displaying a red light, signaling her to stop. She brought her vehicle to a halt and had been stationary for about ten seconds when she was hit in the rear at a moderate speed by another driver.
The accident caused damage to the rear bumper which had been dislodged, the rear lights and the floor of her boot. The other driver accepted responsibility for the accident at the scene, and details were exchanged. No emergency services were contacted as matter appeared to be a genuine accident and the third party was apologetic and co-operative.
Mrs. Y later instructed her own insurers to deal with the repairs to the vehicle. The following morning, Mrs Y awoke early and felt pain in her neck and shoulders, along with experiencing a headache. A few days later, and with persisting pain, she contacted Oakwood Solicitors to enquire about making a personal injury claim. We recommended that she seek medical attention from her GP in light of her ongoing symptoms.
A claim was submitted to the third party insurers and liability was accepted in under three weeks. Causation was raised as a possible issue. We proceeded to arrange some physiotherapy treatment for her and instructed a GP medical expert to make an appointment with her in order that a medical report could be obtained. The medical appointment was arranged for March 2018.
Once the appointment had been carried out, we received a medical report which set out the injuries that Mrs. Y had sustained and provided a prognosis which stated that her whiplash related symptoms would resolve by August 2018, and recommending that physiotherapy continue. The report was accepted as being factually accurate by Mrs. Y and it was disclosed to the third party insurers with an initial offer of £3400.00.
The physiotherapy costs had been claimed in addition to this. The insurers returned with an offer of £2550.00 (not including physiotherapy) As part of the negotiations, Mrs. Y conceded that she would be prepared to reduce her proposal to £3000.00. Unfortunately, the third-party insurers did not agree with this valuation and made a counter-offer of £2650.00.
Oakwood Solicitors took the view that this was not reasonable and recommended to Mrs. Y that we involve the Courts and allow them to have an opportunity determine the value of her claim for compensation. Mrs. Y agreed to follow our recommendation on the basis that we were confident that the Courts would deem that the third party insurers had been unreasonable.
The Courts were notified of the claim and the matter was set down for a paper-based hearing in July 2018. Mrs. Y did not need to attend the hearing. The Judge was happy to review the matter on the basis of the medical report alone. The Judge found that the claim was worth the sum of £3050 and Mrs. Y beat the best offer by the insurers by a clear £400.00. Mrs. Y was delighted with this and received her compensation by August 2019.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
For any legal queries about Road Traffic Accidents, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.
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