Road Traffic Accidents: Steps to Take if You are Injured

1 Jun 2020 | Sophie Davies
road accident

Road casualty statistics are published twice a year by the UK government. The latest figures published at the end of 2019 show that from June 2018-2019, 27,820 people were seriously injured on British roads, and of those 1,870 died as a consequence. This represents an increase in fatalities from the previous year’s data.

Behind the numbers are all types of road user: vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicycle riders and pedestrians, including children. Car occupants account for the greatest number of total casualties, simply because cars represent around 80% of road traffic. However, vulnerable user groups, such as pedestrians and cyclists have a much higher rate of casualties per mile than other road users.

Causes of accidents include failure to look properly, excess speed, tiredness and driver error leading to loss of control. According to the RAC Foundation, drink driving and driving under the influence of illegal drugs account for around 5% of all reported traffic accidents. Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, were involved in crashes where 25% of all the people involved were either killed or seriously injured. In contrast, older drivers have approximately the same collision rates as middle-aged drivers, but are generally frailer, so are more likely to succumb to their injuries.

So, what should you do if you have a road traffic accident?

Legal requirements/obligations?

Whether you are a driver or a passenger, here are some guidelines to follow if you are involved in a traffic accident.

It is an offence under the Road Traffic Act not to stop after an accident. If the accident causes injury or damage to a vehicle, you must provide your name, address and vehicle registration number to whoever has ‘reasonable grounds’ to request them.  This could be the other driver, their insurance company or the police. Note if the driver is not the owner, the owner’s name and address must also be supplied. Finally, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours as well as to your insurance company.  This is the case even if you do not intend to make a claim.

What are the practical steps you must take after a traffic accident?

You stopped your car. If anyone is injured, call 999 right away for an ambulance and for the police.

The police will not always attend so if you believe the other party is at fault you will need to think like a detective yourself which can be difficult when you are feeling flustered and upset.

Most people will remember to exchange details with the other people involved. But to be certain the details are correct take a photograph of all number plates and vehicles.   This will prevent any later argument with an insurer insisting you have the wrong vehicle.

If possible collect details of any witnesses and make notes of the accident, such as the time, date, exact location and weather conditions.    The cameras on our mobile telephones are ideal for assembling this evidence.

Should you decide to pursue a claim for compensation for personal injury this information will be very helpful.    However,   you should not be put off from making a claim because you are concerned you do not have all the necessary details.     An experienced personal injury solicitor will know how to go about obtaining all the information needed.

How do I start a claim for compensation?

Whether you are a driver or a passenger, you may be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries. If you intend to claim for personal injury, you should get advice from a legal specialist. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) is a not-for-profit association of legal specialists.   APIL will be able to find you an accredited, expert personal injury lawyer. You may also look for members of The Motor Accident Solicitors Society, which is an association of solicitors who specialise in helping people who suffered personal injuries arising from motor accidents.  The Law Society has its own panel of experienced practitioners and will be able to help you find a personal injury solicitor local to you.

Does it matter if the police are not prosecuting the other party?

In short, no.   You can still succeed with a compensation claim in full.

Claiming on insurance or from the Motor Insurer’s Bureau

If you have a comprehensive insurance policy, you can claim from your own insurer for vehicle damage costs.   However, the injury compensation is unlikely to be generous and you should always consult with a solicitor before settling a claim for injury in this way.  Furthermore, if your insurer cannot recover the money from the other party’s insurer, you could lose your no claims bonus.    If you have third party insurance, you can make a claim against the other driver and the insurer will determine who was responsible but you will not be assisted by your insurer.

If you have been injured regardless, of your level of insurance cover it is always better to instruct a personal injury solicitor to act on your behalf.

If the other driver is uninsured or cannot be identified there is the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). This is a body that provides compensation to victims of uninsured driver or untraced drivers who hit and run. The MIB also compensates drivers under the Green Card Scheme.

Can a passenger claim for personal injury compensation?

Injured passengers are entitled to claim against the driver who was at fault. This could mean the driver of the car that they were travelling in. If more than one driver was at fault, they can claim against each one.

I was not wearing a seatbelt. Can I still make a claim?

The law says that passengers and drivers must wear a seatbelt and failure to do so could result in criminal prosecution.   Seatbelts are one of the simplest yet most effective ways of saving lives on the road. However, if you were involved in a road traffic accident and the accident was not your fault, failure to wear a seat belt does not mean you cannot claim compensation. It is likely that your compensation will be reduced however.    A 25% reduction is typical.

I can’t remember what happened but I want to make a claim. What now?

Talk to a personal injury specialist solicitor.   Brain injury is unfortunately not an uncommon consequence of car accident.   A specialist brain injury solicitor will be able to advise whether you have a claim.

The accident was my fault. Can I claim compensation?

First, consider whether the accident was truly your fault or not. Sometimes it is not entirely clear where blame lies, and it might even be shared between the parties involved. A solicitor will help you determine whether you could be held responsible.

Even if you are found partly responsible you may still be able to claim for personal injury compensation.

Sophie Davies is a personal injury solicitor. APIL accredited Senior Litigator and a Law Society Personal Injury Panel Member.


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