What is a road traffic accident?
A road traffic collision or road traffic accident needs to be reported to the police if:
- anyone is injured or property is damaged – other than to the driver of the vehicle causing the collision;
- any animal is injured – except for one that is being carried in the vehicle concerned;
- there is damage to a vehicle – other than the one responsible for the collision; or
- there is damage to property bordering the road, including street furniture such as signposts, bollards and lamp posts.
The accident might have happened on the road itself, on land bordering the road, or in any public space, such as a car park.
What must I do in the event of an accident?
- make sure that no one is injured, but if there is, call the emergency services straight away;
- exchange names, contact and insurance details with other car drivers involved – and make a point of noting carefully the registration number of any vehicle which fails to stop, since this may be used at a later date to trace the driver concerned;
- record full details of the accident scene (preferably including photographs) and make a note of the damage caused and the extent of any apparent injuries;
- ask for the names and contact details of any witnesses to the accident – but bear in mind that these individuals are not obliged to give their details to you;
- when the police attend the scene, make a point of obtaining the incident number recorded by the police;
- do not admit liability for the accident.
How do I claim compensation for any damage or injury sustained?
If you were the driver of a vehicle involved in the accident, your first step is to report it straight away to your insurance company and submit a claim – the value of which your insurers will attempt to recover from the person or persons responsible for the accident.
If you were a pedestrian or the owner of property (such as a fence or wall) damaged in the vehicle collision), you may pursue directly a claim against the driver responsible via their insurance company – or with the help of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau if the driver was uninsured or untraceable.
In that event, however, you might want to instruct a solicitor to pursue the road traffic accident claim on your behalf.
Personal injury claims
If you were injured in the traffic accident, you are also typically entitled to compensation from the person or persons responsible.
Because of the invariably complicated nature of such claims, you are almost certain to want to instruct a specialist legal professional in pursuing your claim.
A specialist personal injury solicitor will also ask you to describe want happened to cause the accident and the extent of damage caused and the nature of the injuries you suffered. This might also involve input from other professionals – such as your doctor – whom you have consulted as a result of your injuries.
These details then form a letter of claim against those responsible for the accident. Once liability has been accepted by those responsible, your solicitor will negotiate a suitable level of compensation for all the losses, pain and suffering you sustained.
If the other party continues to deny responsibility or there is a failure to agree settlement terms, your solicitor may advise that legal proceedings are begun, with the possibility of the case needing to be decided by the courts.