Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Claiming Compensation after a Road Traffic Collision

Don’t let misconceptions prevent you from claiming

Many people who sustain serious injuries or who are bereaved as a result of a road traffic collision do not claim the compensation to which they are entitled because of many misconceptions common amongst the public generally, and on occasion even perpetuated by wrong and misleading press coverage. This article is designed to correct some of those misconceptions.

Firstly, it is important to remember that if a claim is pursued successfully, the damages received are compensatory only, and are awarded to try (as best money can) to restore quality of life. These claims are not the same as a lottery win, and without exception the injured and bereaved would far rather have their health restored or their loved one still with them than any amount of money. Where people have a valid claim, the damages awarded are to provide for the most vital of things like:-

  • Replacing lost income
  • Paying for rehabilitation to ensure best possible recovery
  • To purchase aids and equipment to promote the greatest independence
  • To contribute towards the cost of single storey or adapted property if needed
  • Where individuals need care and support, to pay for the costs of such care, and where appropriate for the rest of that person’s life

Bringing a claim is about recovery from injuries, financial security, independence, quality of life and peace of mind

There are many other misconceptions which result in people thinking they cannot bring a claim after road traffic collisions. Some examples are:-

  • If the victim was not wearing a seatbelt this does not invalidate the claim. It might reduce the claim by a percentage if the person responsible for the collision can produce evidence to show that injuries would have been less severe or even non existent if a seatbelt had been worn. However even in cases where a seatbelt would have meant there would have been no injuries, there will still be a valid claim if the collision itself was caused, at least in part, by the fault of someone else
  • What if the Police don’t investigate? Maybe no-one is ever charge or convicted of a criminal offence arising out of the collision. This is a very common scenario, but a civil claim for damages will often still be successful. This is because in civil claims the standard of proof is lower than in the criminal courts, and the test to establish fault is whether the driver who caused the accident drove at a standard lower than of a reasonably prudent driver
  • If there are no independent witnesses some people think they cannot successfully pursue a civil claim. This is not true. Other evidence, sometimes looking at a careful analysis of the scene of the collision (particularly if the Police investigated and kept a record) or of damage to the vehicles involved can give clues about how the incident occurred, and in some cases can be reviewed by experts in accident reconstruction
  • There has been something of an increase in the prevalence of uninsured drivers over the last few years. However, just because you are injured by an uninsured driver does not mean you do not have a valid claim. Sometimes the vehicle itself will have a relevant policy of insurance attached to it by the Road Traffic Act 1988. If there really is no insurer then an organisation called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau will step into the shoes of the uninsured driver and subject to proving the case, will compensate the victims of uninsured drivers on our roads. If a car had been stolen when the collision took place, it is often possible to pursue successful claims. Even if you are injured in a hit and run incident and the driver is never tracked down, then subject to satisfying certain conditions the Motor Insurers’ Bureau may provide compensation.
  • If you are a passenger in a vehicle and it is driven by a family member like your spouse, partner or parents, and they cause an accident, there is no reason in principle why you cannot bring a claim. If liability is established that claim will be met by their insurance company
  • Some people believe that if they are partly to blame for a collision, they cannot claim. However, the law allows for contributory negligence. This means that if you are partly at fault, but someone else may also be partly to blame, you will still be entitled to compensation, but the amount will be reduced by a percentage to reflect the level of blame attributed to you. We all have a duty to drive safely on the roads, but if for example in a momentary lapse you were driving too fast along a main road, when someone pulled out of a side road in front of you in circumstances where they could and should have seen your approach and a collision ensues, you will probably still be able to bring a claim but it will be reduced by a percentage to reflect the relative blameworthiness of your actions.

If you have any queries about whether you may be entitled to claim damages following a road traffic collision, please contact us.