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What to do if you are involved in a road traffic accident

No matter how good or careful of a driver you are, the chances are, at some point, you will be involved in a road traffic accident, whether this is as a driver, a passenger, a cyclist, a pedestrian, or a motorcyclist. We have put together the following guide to provide you with helpful information about what you need to do if you are involved in a road traffic accident.

What should you do at the scene of an accident?

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident it is recommended that you stop and ensure everyone is okay and uninjured and if all of the vehicles involved are undamaged. The road safety guidelines state that you must stop immediately if someone is injured, a vehicle is damaged, an animal is hurt, or a piece of street furniture is damaged, which includes things such as signs, a traffic light, a bollard, or street lamps. You must stop whether the accident is your fault or not.

If you are involved in a road traffic accident you will not have been expecting it, and after the crash, you may be badly injured or still in shock, so you may be confused or not thinking clearly. However, there are a few things that are essential to remember and there are some steps you should take at the scene of an accident that will help you going forward. You should try to remember to do the following:

  • Take photo and video evidence of the accident when it is safe to do so. This includes photos of the damage that has been done to all vehicles involved, as well as photos of these vehicles within the area and the roads surrounding the accident to show the context of the accident. These photos can be a big help in supporting your claim. If you do not have a camera on you then you should at least sketch a photo if possible.
  • Exchange details with all parties involved in the accident. This includes names, phone numbers, addresses, car registrations, and insurance details. If the owner of the car and the driver of the car are not the same person, then you should get the details of both.
  • Take details from any witnesses to the accident if there are any.
  • Take notes of the other vehicles involved in the accident including the colour and model of the car, registration, the age of the vehicle, and the damage done to the vehicles. Ideally, you should gain photo evidence of all of these features as well to provide visual proof, and they are useful as a backup if you lose your notes after the accident.

You should avoid discussing the accident with other parties involved, including discussing who was in the wrong, and you should avoid admitting liability if you are aiming to claim the other parties. You should also not discuss the process of reporting this to the insurance company either.

Regardless of whether the accident was your fault or not, you should report it to your insurance company as soon as physically possible. You should also report the incident to the police, as you don’t know what other parties may do in the future, like denying any involvement in the accident or even blame you for the full incident.

Common causes of an accident

Just because you have been involved in an accident doesn’t necessarily mean it is your fault. There is a wide array of different causes that can lead to a road traffic accident. However, you must be able to prove that the accident did not occur at your fault and was the fault of another party involved if you are hoping to claim them. Some common causes of a road traffic accident are:

  • Driver error – This can include being negligent or reckless while driving, and this is the most common cause of road traffic accidents in the UK. Several different things can lead to a driver being negligent or not concentrating on the road, therefore causing an accident. Some of the factors include consuming alcohol, consuming drugs, eating or drinking while driving, using a mobile phone while driving, ignoring traffic signs, and being distracted by activities that could be taking place inside or outside of the car.
  • Weather conditions – Bad weather conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow, ice or wind can be contributing factors in many road traffic accidents.
  • Car malfunction – A problem with the vehicle, such as brakes failing, steering not working properly, or poor tyre traction can also be factors that lead to road traffic accidents.
  • Road maintenance – Cracks in the road, potholes, construction work, poor road signs, poor quality roads, and faulty traffic lights are all dangerous factors that could also lead to a road traffic accident.
  • Sudden illness – If a driver suddenly falls ill, for example, has a heart attack or a stroke, they will not be prosecuted for the accident but, they could still be liable to pay compensation, which will be covered by their insurance.

Sometimes, it may be obvious who was the cause of a road traffic accident and liability will not be disputed, but it is not always this simple, and in those cases, you will need to seek expert legal advice. It should be noted that in general, if one driver drives into the back of another, the driver who is behind is liable, regardless of whether the car in front has slammed on or did something silly, as the behind driver should be within a safe stopping distance of the other driver.

Seek medical help and advice

If you have suffered from an injury as a result of a road traffic accident, then you should seek immediate and appropriate medical assistance. This could involve calling an ambulance, going to your nearest A&E unit, or arranging an appointment with your GP. Making a compensation claim can be a lot easier with the help of a medical diagnosis of your injuries, but it’s important to seek medical help to ensure that you are okay and check you haven’t suffered any internal injuries, as well as to help your claim.

Whiplash is typically the most common type of injury that occurs following a car accident and is also the most common type of road traffic accident claim. Whiplash is generally an injury to the neck area, which is caused by a very sudden and violent movement of the head backwards and forwards, which usually happens after impact in a motor vehicle collision. Some symptoms of whiplash can include pain and stiffness when moving your head and sometimes headaches. These injuries can be minor and should usually clear up quite quickly, but can sometimes continue for longer periods of time following an accident. To find out more about claiming for whiplash, click here.

Other common injuries that often occur from car crashes are seat belt injuries, airbag injuries, and child restraint injuries. Some symptoms can also include concussions, broken bones, cuts, bruises, internal injuries, and psychological injuries.

Making a road traffic accident claim

You can claim for any pain and injuries caused by your accident, any care or treatment that you have to receive, any inconvenience caused by the accident, any damage to your vehicle or property, and also any money which you may have lost as a result of your accident. This can include loss of earnings from taking time off work.

While you may feel a little nervous about making a claim, it is important to remember that all motorists are required by law to have motor insurance, and the reason they are insured is to cover any costs of accidents in which they are involved. Therefore, you should not feel guilty about making a claim. If you have suffered losses and the party was at fault, it is better for you if their insurance company covers all of the costs rather than dealing with the expenses yourself. This worry mostly applies when you have been a passenger in the vehicle of a friend or family member who has been responsible for an accident. Again, compensation is needed to help aid your recovery, but it is important to remember that it is the insurance company paying out, not the driver.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by another driver, then the claim is made against their insurance company. If the accident was caused by a problem with the road, then the claim is made against the Highways Agency.

To make a claim, you should contact a solicitor to provide you with legal representation. You will need to be able to prove that the accident was the fault of the other party, or at least partly their fault. You need to tell your solicitor exactly what happened and provide them with as much information and detail as possible so that they can proceed with your claim. The information that you will need to provide your solicitor includes:

  • Your personal information – name, address, phone number, email address, etc.
  • Date and details of the accident as detailed above
  • Details of the other party involved or witnesses to the accident
  • Any police reports
  • Any medical reports
  • Any information collected on the day of the accident or afterwards

Once you have provided this information to your solicitor, they can then start the process of making your claim but they will most likely need further information from you as the claim progresses, including information on your recovery.

If you were driving illegally when the accident took place, you will not be in a strong position to make a claim, regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault. Driving illegally can include:

  • Driving without a licence, tax, MOT, or insurance
  • Driving a stolen vehicle
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving alone while only having a provisional licence
  • Driving an unsafe vehicle
  • Driving despite being banned from driving

Who can make a road traffic accident claim?

It is important to remember that it isn’t only drivers who are eligible to claim an accident, but also passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.

Passengers can claim regardless of whether the driver of the vehicle they were in was responsible for the accident or not. This doesn’t only cover passengers in cars though, you can make a claim if you are a passenger on a bus, in a taxi, or any other form of public transport. As well as claiming if you have suffered an injury in a bus or taxi collision, you can also claim if you fell on a bus due to erratic driving, or if you fall because the driver pulls away while you are still getting on or off the bus. Drivers of these vehicles have a duty of care to drive safely and responsibly.

Cyclists can also claim if they have been injured as a result of a collision with a motor vehicle, have been involved in a hit and run accident, or have been involved in an accident due to badly maintained roads. The number of cyclist accidents claims has risen in recent years as the number of people who have taken up cycling has vastly increased. According to statistics by the Department of Transport, in 2019, there were 16,873 pedal cyclist casualties in the UK, 4,092 of which were killed or seriously injured an 11% increase since 2009.

Even though there have been many high-profile campaigns centred on the phrase ‘Think Bike’, the number of accidents involving motorcycles has increased, with around 1 in 5 road accidents in the UK involving motorcycles. This is because drivers often fail to see motorcycles while overtaking or at road junctions, and high speed can often be involved with motorcycle accidents.

How much compensation can you expect to receive?

Every road traffic claim is unique and therefore, it is impossible to pinpoint how much you will earn in terms of compensation. Minor injuries can be less than £1,000, but severe injuries can be in excess of £200,000.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries from a road traffic accident, and you can generally expect to receive between £800 and £5,000 if you have suffered from this. If you have been injured due to an airbag, compensation tends to start at around £2,500. Other factors also affect how much you can receive, including any damage to your vehicle or property, loss of earnings, or the cost of ongoing treatment or care.

What about ‘Hit and Run’ or uninsured drivers?

Although all drivers are required by law to have motor insurance, there are, unfortunately, those who break the law and drive uninsured. There are also motorists who will flee the scene of an accident rather than stay around and exchange details. For this reason, all UK motor insurance companies are required to pay into the Motor Insurer’s Bureau fund each year to cover the cost of road accidents caused by uninsured or untraceable drivers. In these scenarios, compensation is paid by the MIB.

How can HNK Solicitors help you?

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault, then you may be entitled to compensation. HNK Solicitors have a team of expert road traffic accident solicitors who will ensure that you get the right amount of compensation for your road traffic accident, and will start working on your claim as soon as you instruct us. We will advise you on what offers are poor or reasonable and look at previous records with similar injuries and scenarios to instruct you on what level of compensation we believe you deserve and fight to get this for you. To find out more, visit our road traffic accident page or contact us on 0151 668 0813 or to discuss your case.

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