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Car Accident Claims: Ensuring Just Compensation

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Our British road network is hugely important for our economy. It supports our shipment system and allows commuting from A to B. But the roads can be a dangerous place for drivers, as our research below outlines.  

In the last recorded full year, there were 788 car driver and passenger fatalities and 350 motorcyclist fatalities. There was a dip during the pandemic, but casualty and fatality figures are back to what they were in the 2010s. There is some good news, though – pedal cyclists are statistically the safest since 2013.   

Many car drivers and passengers claim compensation when they’re involved in an accident. The same is true for vulnerable road users like motorcyclists and pedal cyclists. Recent figures vary, but DWP statistics suggest around 450,000 car accident claims in 2020. 

How much you receive in compensation depends on several factors which we’ll focus on in this article, such as: 

  • How car accident claims are evaluated 
  • How liability for an accident is determined 
  • What you need to do to ensure you get fair compensation for your accident. 

Evaluating your car accident claim 

The vast majority of compensation claims never get before a judge. When you choose to work with a specialist law firm, your solicitors will negotiate on your behalf, and aim to reach a satisfactory settlement during the negotiation stage. Additionally, there is also something called the “Pre-Action Protocol”.  

Think of it like a rulebook governing how solicitors deal with each other to resolve disputes as quickly as possible. This is to help ensure the process is as fair and smooth as possible.  

There are two specific Pre-Action Protocols governing road accident cases. We’ll look at them both in this article. 

How do you estimate the value of your injuries and costs 

When your solicitor contacts the other party’s insurer, they may have a compensation figure for your injury in mind. 

They work this out using a combination of something called the Judicial College Guidelines, and their own lived experience of how cases such as yours have settled previously. The guide can be used to indicate standard compensation levels for different types of injury – but a specialist team will also understand the nuances of the law that might influence these figures. Generally, the more severe and injury, or the more it has impacted your life, the higher the compensation figure might be. For a neck injury like whiplash, the compensation is much lower in value than that of a serious injury – such as a complex orthopaedic or spinal injury.  

Your solicitor may also consider loss of earnings within your settlement figure, particularly if you had to take time off work due to the accident. If your injury is severe enough, they could also consider medical treatments like physiotherapy, rehabilitation programs and even adaptation to your home or car. 

Bigger claims over £10,000   

We cover this later in the piece, but it’s important to tell you that a new, more streamlined system applies to claims of £10,000 or less. Please keep reading for more information 

Suppose your claim is for more than £10,000 or you’re a vulnerable road user like a horse rider, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian or a pedal cyclist. In that case, your solicitor and the other party will start negotiating. 

Between them, they’ll attempt to develop a joint figure based on the damages and injuries you’ve suffered together with liability. 

Determining liability  

When your solicitor and the other party’s solicitor are negotiating, they attempt to apportion blame. The level of blame attached to you directly affects the compensation you receive for a car accident injury claim

This is how it works. 

If the other party is at fault

If the other party was entirely at fault for the accident, you will receive the total amount of compensation that your solicitor has negotiated on your behalf. 

If the car accident was your fault

If, on the other hand, you were entirely at fault for a traffic accident on the road, you would be unlikely to receive anything and the claim would not settle in your favour. 

If there’s shared liability

In many cases where you and the other parties were both at fault, the liability is shared among you.  

This can get complicated if there are multiple vehicles involved in an accident, or if the circumstances of the collision are particularly complex. Insurers call this “split liability”. 

How liability for a car accident is decided  

Let’s look at how split liability may be applied, using a fictional example.  

Let’s say that, during rush hour, a motorcyclist is filtering through the busy streets of Newcastle. All of a sudden, they have to swerve suddenly to avoid a car that’s turning left into a side street. The motorcyclist crashes into a pedal cyclist using the designated cycling lane. The pedal cyclist suffers a broken leg

After reviewing the evidence, the legal team may decide that all three parties have some partial liability (split liability) for the collision.  

They might decide that: 

  • The car driver is partially to blame because they didn’t signal. 
  • The motorcyclist is partially to blame because they were moving through traffic too quickly, and without due care and attention. 
  • The pedal cyclist was partially to blame because, although they were in the cycle lane, they weren’t wearing the proper visibility aids, making it harder for the motorcyclist to see and avoid them. 

Although this is example is purely illustrative, it shows how liability might be assessed in a more complex circumstance. The amount of compensation awarded to each party also depends on the specifics of each accident, the extent of the injuries and damage, and the arguments presented by the solicitors and insurers. 

Getting just compensation  

You can help your solicitor achieve the best possible outcome by following these three simple steps. 

What to do immediately after a car accident  

Being involved in a road accident is frightening and unsettling. We appreciate that it can be difficult for you to focus in the first few moments after a crash.  

Before you do anything else, make sure that you’re OK first. Keep your helmet on if you were knocked off your motorbike or pedal cycle. You might have an injury you’re unaware of, and taking your helmet off might worsen it. 

Leave it there if there’s no oncoming traffic and your vehicle looks fine. Don’t pull your car over, and don’t try to retrieve your motorbike or bicycle. 

If you feel OK, find out how other people involved in the accident are. If you can, take them to a safe spot away from further danger. Remember to swap contact and insurance details with the other people in the crash. If there were eyewitnesses, try to get their contact information too.  

Call 999 to report the accident to the police and for an ambulance in case anyone is hurt. You’ll need the police report number for insurance purposes and if you intend to go for compensation later.  

Even if you feel alright, it can take time before you feel the effects of an accident. It’s best to go to A&E as soon as possible to get checked out, especially your head, neck, and back. You may also want to ask the doctor or consultant for a copy of your notes as evidence of your injuries. 

Negotiation advice  

Although your solicitor will gather evidence of the crash and its impacts on you as part of their job, there are actions you can take to help give them the strongest hand when negotiating your compensation claim.  

Take photos of the scene (only when safe to do so) 

At the crash scene, if you can safely take pictures, you should. Be sure to capture any other vehicle or an obstacle in the road that may have contributed to the crash. This may be your only chance to get photographic evidence if CCTV cameras do not cover the accident area. 

Hand over the contact details of the other people involved in the accident and the eyewitnesses so your solicitor can speak to them directly. 

Obtain a record of your meetings with medical staff 

Ask your doctor and the consultants you see to provide a letter detailing your meetings with them. Try also to keep a diary of your injury’s impacts on all aspects of your life. Your testimony and the testimony of medical professionals can be compelling evidence supporting your compensation claim. 

Keep track of any spending related to your injury 

Now, your finances. You might incur costs related to your injury, like rehabilitation courses or making adaptations to your home or vehicle. Keep receipts for everything, and if treatment is likely to be ongoing, ask your consultant how long it will last and how much it’s expected to cost. 

Log any missed workdays or loss of earnings 

If you have to take time off work, keep a record of your lost earnings. You can include pension contributions and any bonuses you would have reasonably expected to earn in this figure. 

Time limit to submit a claim  

You have a statutory limit of up to three years to submit a claim compensation for a road accident. 

Your legal team may advise you have longer than this depending on the circumstances of your accident, but this is not guaranteed.  

Car accident claims FAQ 

Small claims under £10,000: the pre-action protocol  

For road traffic accidents not involving vulnerable road users where the compensation is less than £10,000, a new version of the Pre-Action Protocol came into force in May 2021. 

Solicitors and insurers are now encouraged to share information faster. This new process is cheaper and means that compensation gets to victims quicker. 

The types of claims the new system is likely to be used for are whiplash, nose fractures, minor hand injuries, and so on, for which the Judicial College Guidelines recommend compensation of £10,000 or less. 

Your solicitor will advise you if this is the best option for your claim. 

If the other side is being unreasonable or uncooperative  

Occasionally, the other party’s insurers may refuse to acknowledge their driver’s liability for an accident. They may also be uncooperative in providing the information your solicitor requests. 

In these cases, your solicitor may advise you that court action is the most suitable option. This rarely happens, but if it does, your solicitor will let you know how the process works before seeking your permission to proceed. 

Uninsured vehicles and untraceable vehicles (hit and runs) 

It’s hard to believe, but according to the Department for Transport, there are nearly half a million unlicensed vehicles on British roads. That’s around 2% of all cars, motorbikes, vans, and lorries. 

If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or a hit-and-run driver, your solicitor can still claim compensation through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). In these situations, the MIB acts like an insurance company. It will investigate the claim and negotiate with your solicitor for a fair settlement. 

Working with a specialised solicitor  

If you do want to make a compensation claim, get in touch with a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. 

We work with a hand-selected network of solicitor firms at The Compensation Experts. For each firm, we partner with recognised experts in their area of the law. 

Get in touch with us to tell us about your accident. Share what happened to you, and then they’ll recommend a firm to put you in touch with. They’ll introduce you to a named solicitor at the partner firm who will take your case forward from that point. 

Our service is free of charge, and our network’s solicitors work on a no-win, no-fee basis. Contact us today so we can put you in touch with the solicitor that’s right for you.