Being involved in a car crash (or any road traffic accident!) can be a terrifying experience….no matter if it’s minor or more serious. It’s always good to have some preparation in case you happen to be unfortunate enough to be in a car accident, this guide covers most questions you may have. So, what should you do if you’re involved in a car accident…
Right after the car accident
If you are not injured, but you’re still taken by surprise; try not to panic, stay calm and make sure that you and your passengers are okay. Look around for danger. If the location is hazardous due to traffic etc., then move the vehicle to a safer spot and switch on your hazard lights — in more serious accidents the vehicle should not be moved.
If there is noticeable damage to the car check that no fuel is leaking onto the road, if there is, make sure to switch off your engine. By law, you must stop your car.
Should I call the Guards in the event of an accident?
You happen to suspect the other driver involved is drunk or has taken drugs then you should call the Gardaí. If someone is hurt, or there is substantial damage to the car, call the Guards (legally this must be done within 24hrs). You sense that the injuries require medical attention then call an ambulance immediately. The Gardaí will also be informed. In the meantime don’t move anyone with a suspected head or spinal injury.
You should call the Guards if you suspect that the car accident was caused deliberately. If no one is hurt and the damage is only minor, then it may only be necessary to exchange contact details and insurance information with the other involved parties.
The Guards are on the way, now what?
You should take photos of any damage to the vehicles involved and of the location that the car accident occurred. Remember to take registration numbers and ask for any witnesses. The Guards will request the following information:
- Your name and address
- The address where your car is kept
- The name and address of the car owner
- The car’s registration number
- Motor insurance details (including the expiry date of the policy)
Other useful information to note is the date and time of the accident, keep the details of any witnesses, and a record of the damage and position of the vehicles, and/or damage to surrounding property.
How soon should I see a Doctor/receive medical attention after a car accident?
It’s strongly advisable to see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident. Car crash injuries range from minor scratches to catastrophic injuries (permanent disabling conditions). Other injuries might not be visible and symptoms may only appear after the initial shock has subsided.
Should I leave the scene of the accident?
If there is damage or injury then NO DON’t LEAVE! Leaving is illegal (except for medical treatment). If you haven’t exchanged information you could be perceived as a hit and run, regardless if the accident was your fault or not. If the Gardaí has been called: you must wait.
What happens if the other driver leaves the scene of the accident?
If the other driver leaves the scene of the car accident without exchanging information this is considered to be a hit and run. You should give any details of the driver and the vehicle involved in the Gardaí, fortunately, it is easier now to catch hit & run drivers with the prevalence of CCTV on our roads.
Should I admit liability?
No never admit liability or agree that you were at fault, even if you think you caused the accident. Just stick to the facts and leave opinions out. Any — in the heat — of the moment comments could come back to bite at a later date after the event of a car accident. You could also invalidate your insurance policy by admitting liability (read the small print on your insurance documents).
If the other person admits liability, still remain cautious as they could change their mind later and deny responsibility.
How does insurance work if I’m at fault (no other vehicle involved)
If you have comprehensive car insurance your insurer will arrange the repairs to your vehicle, you will have to pay the insurance excess charge. If you don’t have a comprehensive cover you will be liable for the damages yourself.
Notifying your insurance company
You should report the accident to your insurance company while at the scene of the accident. You can find the name of your insurer on the disc on your window screen, they will take you through any steps you need to take, and advise in case the other party makes a claim against you.
Will I lose my No Claims Bonus?
Check your insurance policy, did you take the option of protecting your no claims bonus? If you did, you will NOT lose the No Claims Bonus value that you have earned, provided that you have made no more than two claims within the past three years. Or, maybe you have a step back protection option, with this, your No Claims Bonus value is deducted by a percentage.
The other driver involved has no insurance, can I still claim?
You have found out that the driver of the other vehicle has no insurance; don’t worry, the Motor Insurer’s Bureau of Ireland (MiBi) should be able to help. MiBi compensates victims who have been involved in a road traffic accident caused by uninsured or unidentified vehicles. It’s best to discuss this with your solicitor, they will help you with the application.
What are the most common injuries from traffic accidents?
Whiplash is probably the most common injury as a result of a car accident. Whiplash is a neck injury caused usually caused by great force, often seen in rear end car collision accidents that cause the victims head to suddenly move forwards and backwards. A whiplash injury may not appear for several days after an accident, so it’s important to get any developing head and/or neck pain checked out.
Other common accident injuries are made up of soft tissue damage e.g torn ligaments, bruising etc., but many of these injuries go unreported. Head and back injuries are the most common of the more moderate to severe injuries.
Who’s at fault for rear ending accidents?
If you run into the car in front of you, you are nearly always considered partly responsible: as you should be keeping a safe distance behind the vehicle in front.
But sometimes the driver of the car that gets rear ended is at fault, for example in these scenarios, reversing suddenly; driving with broken brake lights; breaking down and not switching on hazard lights or not moving out of the lane of traffic. From a legal perspective, there could be many facets of the situation that would have to be considered.
Not sure who is to blame for the accident, or if multiple people are at fault
For a claim to be successful fault must be determined, there are certain rules of law to help determine who’s at fault in situations when blame is not clear, for example using the rules of the road. This often applies in the case of a rear end collision, i.e the driver behind should have been keeping a safe distance back.
But sometimes both parties are somewhat responsible, this is where ‘contributory negligence’ comes into play i.e. how much blame for the accident can be attributed to you, and others. An example of when multiple people may be at fault would be a road accident that resulted in a ‘pile up’ of vehicles. This can affect the length of time it takes to resolve a personal injury claim.
Can passengers sue?
Yes, an injured passenger can sue the driver of the car they were travelling in, or the driver of any other car involved, if there is attributable blame.
Can you cancel a car accident claim?
Yes, if you are not at fault for the accident, you can cancel a car accident claim. But you need to consider the difficulties this will cause you if you decide to pursue injury/damage compensation at a later date.
When should I contact a solicitor?
After a car accident you will have many things on your mind: attending medical needs, informing family, notifying your employer and dealing with insurance; it can be easy to not think about the legal aspects but you should call a personal injury solicitor (assuming there are injuries) as soon as possible.
What does a Personal Injury solicitor do?
If you don’t already have a solicitor, you can find a reputable personal injury solicitor on the Law Society website or contact us here. Your solicitor will initially briefly discuss the incident with you to assess if the case is worth pursuing, this will be free of charge.
If there is a legal case worth pursuing the legal team will send ‘terms’ to you to be signed, you should have proof of identity and address ready to send back to the solicitors. A consultation with a solicitor will follow, he/she will guide you through the next steps such as accessing medical reports etc., and whether you have an accident claim.
How does a car accident claim work?
If you were in an accident through no fault of your own, you are eligible to claim provided it can be shown that the other road user(s) negligence or carelessness resulted in your injury.
A personal injury claim must go through the Personal Injuries Board: Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PAIB). A medical report, by a doctor, containing details of injuries sustained is required. The amounts awarded to the type of injuries reported can be found in the Book of Quantum.
What is the Book of Quantum?
The Book of Quantum provides the general guideline for the amounts awarded in injury claims, supported by medical evidence. The process starts with looking at the anatomical area that suffered the worst injury i.e. the head, torso, limbs etc. Next, the injury is looked at by severity from minor to severe; settlement values are stated based on the categories.
How long do I have to claim after an accident?
You generally have to initiate a claim within two years of knowledge of the accident, see the next point for detailed information.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
This is a law that guides the time frame within which you can take legal action. In the Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004 (outside of clinical negligence) the limit is 2 years. Or simply, you have 2 years from the date of knowledge of the injury to proceed with a claim. (In the statute of limitations act 1991, amended s.221 legal services regulation act 2015).
Solicitor fees: What is No Win No Fee?
No Win No fee also labelled as No Foal No Fee, is a phrase solicitors’ commonly will use to describe the standard fee method on personal injury or litigation cases. Briefly, it means that if you don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay legal fees. In the case of being successful, solicitors cannot charge a fee in relative amounts to the awarded sum. You will often see the statement:
‘In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.’
Types of compensation
In 2017, the average award for a motor injury claim was €24,879, the highest amount awarded was a €605,095. The most common compensatory damages awarded are for
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Damage/loss of property
- Pain and suffering
When does a car claim go to court, how many of them go to court?
Not many personal injury cases go to court. There are various reasons why a claim will leave the Injuries Board and end up in court:
- The Parties involved do not agree to the Injuries Board carrying out the assessment.
- The Injured party will not recover within the time frame of the assessment, or, the Injuries Board believed that they will not be in a position to complete the assessment, within the time frame (9 months – can be extended by a further 3 months).
- There is not a clear prognosis in relation to the injuries.
- It’s a medical negligence case as opposed to a personal injury matter.
- The insurance company sometimes uses the Injuries Board to gauge the level of injuries, and then reject the assessment, and go to court.
- The Parties involved do not agree on the level of the assessment.
- Clerical error i.e. the time frame for acceptance lapses without acceptance.
- The case is purely based on psychological damages.
Many of these instances can be avoided if a solicitor is used in the case to minimise errors. Personal injury cases in the courts can take up to three years to settle.
This should cover most of the common questions in the aftermath of a car accident, and how car accident claims work. But if you require more information or help with a personal injury claim, we recommend speaking with one of our solicitors.