If you’ve been in a car accident – whether as the driver or a passenger – then you might well be entitled to claim compensation for any type of loss you suffer as a result of it.
Of course, what you might be able to claim will very much depend on the individual circumstances, but you might want to consider making a claim for personal injury, damage to your vehicle and any other associated losses – such as damage to personal belongings, time off work, travel expenses to and from the hospital and other incidental expenses, such as prescription charges and parking costs etc.
The key thing to remember when you’re making a claim for compensation is that the law is there to put you back into the position you would have been in had the accident not occurred.
In this article, we take a closer look at the process of claiming compensation, together with a few things that you might want to take into consideration along the way.
Seek medical attention
It perhaps goes without saying that one of the first things you should do after any accident ensures that everyone concerned receives immediate medical attention.
In some cases, of course, the emergency services will be called. If this happens then, you’ll most likely be given a medical assessment at the roadside, and if they consider that you need further treatment, then you’ll be taken to the nearest A&E.
If for any reason, the emergency services aren’t called to your accident then it’s still advisable to see your own GP since some conditions can remain underlying for quite a period of time – especially whiplash and even psychological issues.
Ensure you get everyone’s details
If the police aren’t in attendance at the accident, then make sure you get everyone’s details – particularly the other party (or parties) involved. At the very least you should obtain:
- Details of any other vehicle involved, including the driver’s name, address, phone number and other contact information (such as an email address)
- Details of any independent witnesses
- The car registration number, together with the make, model and colour of the vehicle.
Whilst you’re not legally obliged to, it’s always a good idea to seek independent advice from the onset of any claims process since this can help guide you from the initial claim right through to completion.
You can obtain advice from a number of different sources including solicitors, claims management companies and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Some car insurers also include a legal helpline as part of their policy package so be sure to ask whether this has been included (although they’re usually offered as an additional package at an extra charge). The Law Society also offer limited advice on the process, read more here.
Inform your insurance company
As soon as you’re able (and ideally at the scene of the accident if it’s safe to do so), you should notify your insurance company of the incident and ask them if there’s anything specific they might need from you. If you have a police incident number, then be sure to give this to them too – in fact, anything which you feel will help your claim. The sooner this information is given, the better.
Have the vehicle assessed
If your vehicle has been damaged as a result of the incident, then you’ll need to have it assessed by an independent garage – and keep a note of their subsequent report for onward submission to your insurance company. Even if the vehicle has only been slightly knocked – or appears to have no damage whatsoever – you’re still well advised to do this since knock-on damage isn’t always noticeable to the naked eye but can, in fact, manifest itself underneath the main bodywork.
Keep documentary evidence – of EVERYTHING!
Whatever documentation you receive after your car accident, be sure to keep it in a safe place. In fact, it’s even a good idea to keep a diary note of what happens in the days, weeks and even months after the accident – for example, when you might consult your own GP, what they said, what medication you were given (if any), together with the cost of attending any appointments (whether by car or public transport). This is also a good idea if you find yourself psychologically affected by the accident since you can more accurately record how you might feel from day-to-day.
Also be sure to keep receipts for any financial transaction you undertake and always retain copies of these if you send the originals off to your insurance company.
Collate supporting evidence
You might also want to collate any evidence which might ultimately support your claim – for example, photographs of any personal injury you might have sustained, details of the damage to your vehicle and/or anything else which was damaged as a direct result of the accident (for example, personal clothing, glasses and so on). As far as you’re able, you should date each item of evidence and have it signed by an appropriate person if you can. The last thing you need is for any evidence to be dismissed on the basis of a technical error.
How much compensation might I be able to claim?
Given its very nature, personal injury is extremely difficult to quantify – and of course, not every car accident is the same – so each claim is assessed based on individual merit. The best way to approach a compensation claim is to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor – and ideally, one who specialises in personal injury.
If you look online, many claims management companies will suggest that you can simply calculate the amount of compensation you’ll receive by using an online “compensation calculator”. However, whilst these might well provide a more generalised figure of what you might expect in terms of compensation, they certainly can’t account for your individual circumstances, nor will they be considered by the Court as a benchmark. In fact, the key thing to remember in any claim for compensation is that other external factors will also be taken into account when an initial offer is made, and this might even include a suggestion that you were partly to blame for the accident (often referred to as “contributory negligence”). Consequently, you’re much better placed to take the advice from your solicitor, evidence your claim as far as you’re able and then start to enter into the negotiation process.
What happens once the claim has been made?
Once either your solicitor, or your insurance company, have put your claim forward to the other party then one of two things will generally happen – you’ll either be offered an immediate settlement figure, or they’ll attempt to defend the claim (and this could be for any number of reasons).
Of course, this negotiation period can often prove itself to be quite difficult. In the first instance, you’ll naturally want the best settlement figure possible (which is why you might well be advised not to settle on the first offer). However, many claimants also want the matter finalised as soon as possible – particularly if they’re also enduring a period of physical recovery and/or returning to work. Again, this decision can be discussed at more length with your solicitor – and in line with your own personal circumstances.
What happens if we can’t settle the claim?
If you’re not able to reach an amicable settlement with the other side or their insurers, then your case might proceed to Court. If this happens, and you haven’t already got legal representation, then this might well be a good time to seek the advice of a solicitor and have them represent you in Court.
As we’ve seen, the process for claiming compensation can be a very complex journey and certainly shouldn’t be done without the requisite knowledge of what you should (and shouldn’t) do.
Fortunately, many high street solicitors now offer to conduct personal injury cases on a “no win, no fee” basis. What this basically means is that they’ll represent you on a conditional fee basis, i.e. you won’t have to pay for their fees upfront (other than for any external disbursements, such as the Court issue fee and medical reports etc.) If your case is successful then they’ll be able to claim a success fee from you; and of course, the amount of this fee will vary quite substantially between each law firm. For this reason, it’s certainly a good idea to shop around for the best deal, do remember that the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best!
That said, once you have the right lawyer in your corner – and strong evidence upon which to rely – then there’s certainly no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make a successful claim and receive compensation for any losses you might have suffered.