How to claim in traffic accidents
Accidents happen and sometimes it is nobody’s fault, but if you have been injured in a car crash and somebody else was to blame you are entitled to seek some sort of redress – usually in the form of compensation.
Road accidents can crop up in a variety of ways. You could collide with another car while a driver or a passenger, you could be struck by a vehicle as a pedestrian, or your car could have skidded off the road in bad weather conditions.
There were an estimated 1,580 road deaths and 131,220 people injured in road traffic accident in the year ending June 2020, according to the latest government statistics.
How do I prove negligence?
However your accident happened, to mount a successful compensation claim for injuries sustained in a road traffic accident you must be able to show that somebody else was negligent.
This involves you producing evidence to prove the person responsible for your injuries owed you a duty of care, that they breached this duty of care, and that you were injured as a result of this breach.
All drivers owe a duty of care to other road users and pedestrians, while highway authorities also have a duty to take steps to ensure roads are as safe as possible to use.
The individual who was responsible for your injuries would be found negligent if their actions had failed to meet the standard of what the ‘reasonable man’ or the famous ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ would do in a similar scenario.
What if the accident was partly my fault?
If your accident was partly your fault, or if your injuries were made worse through your own actions or inactions – for example, if you were speeding in icy conditions or not wearing a seatbelt – you may still be able to make a claim provided someone else was responsible too. The amount of compensation you receive, however, be reduced depending on how much the court feels your negligence contributed to the accident and your subsequent injuries.
What are time limits for bringing a claim?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you generally have three years from the date your injuries were sustained or from when you understand the full extent of your injuries (whichever comes later) to make a compensation claim, although if the claimant is a child or is mentally incapacitated this ‘limitation period’ runs, respectively, from the date they turn 18 or when they regain mental capacity.
How do I bring my claim?
If your claim is worth £25,000 or less, your solicitor will usually bring your claim through the Claims Portal using the ‘Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents’.
The Claims Portal aims to ensure your claim is dealt with as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, while the pre-action protocol outlines the steps you need to follow to bring your claim and the time limits involved. They aim to encourage both sides to exchange information at an early stage, consider using a form of alternative dispute resolution to settle the claim, and assess whether you have needs that could be met by rehabilitation, treatment or other measures. If you unreasonably fail to abide by the pre-action protocol, the court may order costs against you.
Your claim may fall outside the protocol, if, for example, it is particularly complicated or of very high value personal, in which case your solicitor can advise you of your options.
What evidence do I need to prove my case?
You will need to produce evidence to prove the other party was negligent and to help your personal injury lawyer make your case as robust as possible. This includes:
- photographs of the accident scene and your injuries;
- names and contact details of any potential witnesses;
- CCTV footage of the event, if available;
- a written account of the accident and how your injuries have affected you, mentally, physically and financially;
- details of any police report;
- records of any medical treatment you had following the accident;
- details of any expenses which have arisen from your injury, and of those going forward, such as time you need to take off work to recover.
How can a solicitor help?
It is a very good idea to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible after your road traffic accident while events are still fresh in your mind and of those of everyone else involved.
A specialist personal injury lawyers can quickly assess whether you have a valid claim and if you do will help you collect the evidence you need to strengthen your case. They will also arrange for you to be examined by a medical expert who will produce an official report outlining the cause of your injury and the effect it has had on your life.
Your solicitor will make sure all the paperwork required for your claim is in order, will strive to negotiate you the out-of-court settlement you deserve, but will also be there to advise you and speak on your behalf if the matter has to go to court.
How can I pay for my claim?
If you personal injury solicitor decides your case has a good chance of succeeding, they may agree to take your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
This means that if you lose the case, you will pay your solicitor nothing. If you win your case, your solicitor will charge a ‘success fee’ out of your compensation. This amount will have been agreed before your case begins, but will usually be a relatively small percentage of the compensation you receive.
How much compensation will I receive?
The compensation you receive depends on how serious your injury is, your long-term prognosis and how it has affected your life, but could include damages for:
- pain and suffering;
- loss of earnings;
- additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
- out-of-pocket expenses;
- adaptations required to your home.