Being involved in a road traffic accident is a traumatic and (hopefully) rare occurrence in your life but it’s likely to happen to all of us at some time or another. This article is intended to give you a general overview of what happens at the scene of the accident and in the short term after that.
1. Secure the scene of the accident
First, establish that everyone is alright and whether or not anyone needs an ambulance or emergency help. After that, secure the site so that other road-users are made aware that they might come on an accident scene. If you have one, put out a red triangle. If you carry a high-vis jacket or any other fluorescent item then roll that up and use it as a marker for on-coming traffic. Try and ensure that the vehicles on the site have been moved off the road to a more secure place.
You’re not obliged to call the Gardai to the scene unless there’s an issue. There might be no issue as to what happened between you and the other people involved. If there are any problems or disputes then you do need to call the Gardai to the scene so that they can deal with any issues arising.
2. What information do you need?
It’s important to get the name, address and contact details of the other party together with their insurance details. It’s an offence if you leave the scene of the accident without exchanging these details with the other party so make sure that this is done and also agree with the other party that everyone agrees that you can both leave the scene.
Remember to also take note of the vehicle registration of their car. This is due to the fact that any claim you might make will be against the driver of the car and the owner. The other driver might not provide the name of the owner – in certain circumstances eg where they are a hired driver, then they may not even be aware of the correct name of the owner but the name of the owner can be determined by the vehicle registration which is why you need to record it. So take a note or perhaps a photo on your smart phone.
It’s a good idea for you to take note of the scene after the accident took place. If you can, take photos on your phone of the position of the cars and whether the accident happened because any traffic lights or other signs were ignored. Take note too of any skid marks, glass or oil on the ground. In general, you want to get a good record of the accident site as this will be helpful later on.
3. Do I need to call the Gardai?
There is no obligation on you to call the Gardai – and you’ve probably witnessed minor incidents where both parties exchange insurance details and then leave the scene.
So you don’t need to call the Gardai. That said, you should always call the Gardai if there’s a dispute or disagreement about any matter at the scene. If you can’t agree on what happened at the scene, or you can’t get details readily from the other driver, then you should call the Gardai, even if it turns out that the other driver doesn’t wait for them to arrive. Once they’re there, they can take statements, speak to witnesses if necessary and generally get an independent record of what happened. If anyone there has been injured then the Gardai will breathalyse everyone on the scene and this is obviously something that can be of use later on in a claim situation.
Once again, remember – it’s a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident without exchanging details with the other driver so you must make sure that you do this before leaving.
3. What should I do after the accident?
As soon as you are able, you should write up an account of what happened at the scene. This is a good idea because your memory of specific details will fade as days pass and every little thing that you can remember will be of use when making a claim.
The other thing that you should do is go to the doctor as soon as you can. You should do this even if you don’t think you have been particularly injured at the scene because you may have sustained hidden injuries that do not come to light for some time but which will cause you pain and discomfort in the future and which will mean that you need to take time off work or incur medical expenses. When you are making your claim you will need to be able to provide a medical report and it will be useful if the doctor who provides your report can give details of how you were impacted immediately after the accident took place.
Even if you are not at fault, it is still a good idea to let your own insurance company know that the accident has taken place. You might find that the other driver will say later on that you were partly responsible for the accident and that they are making a claim against your own policy. It might well be the case that you are not responsible in any way but if you do have to go back to your own insurance policy and discuss this with them, you will want them to cover you completely and you don’t want them to come back to you and say that according to the terms of your policy, you should have told them about the accident earlier.
4. Do I have the right to make a claim?
The first thing to remember is that before you can make a claim in negligence, the accident must be someone else’s fault. So, if you’re injured in an accident you’re not automatically entitled to make a claim. A few other factors must be taken into account.
If you’re the driver of a car then you’ll be considering making a claim against the other cars involved. You are entitled to claim against the driver and/or the owner of the car and for this reason it’s important to find out who owns the car at the scene – either from the driver themselves or via the registration number.
What if you’re not able to find out either? It’s an offence for someone to leave the scene of an accident but that doesn’t mean it never happens and in that case you’re left in a situation where you don’t know who to sue. The government got around that situation by creating the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI). This is an organisation set up by agreement between the Government and companies offering insurance in Ireland. It provides a means whereby people involved in accidents still have a means of making a claim even if they haven’t been able to determine the name of the driver/owner of the other vehicle involved.
There are a number of different steps to go through if you want to make a claim against the MIBI and you might not recover damages to the same degree for your vehicle loss as if you were claiming against an insurance company, but it does offer some possibility to recover some damages where you were involved in an accident that was not your fault.
Bear in mind that in the case of a hit-and-run a criminal investigation will be started by the Gardai but this will not impact on your own right to bring a claim and you can go ahead with that even while the investigation is getting underway.
5. Contributory negligence – what it is and what will it mean for my claim?
There are a few things that can reduce the amount of damages that you ultimately receive in your claim. These are called items of contributory negligence and, as the name suggests, they involve things that you have done which contributed towards the accident taking place or the injuries that you suffered.
One such item is the wearing of seatbelts. If you were not wearing a seatbelt then you might have increased the injuries suffered. Maybe you would not have been so badly hurt, or even not hurt at all, if you had been wearing a seatbelt. The amount of damages awarded can be significantly reduced if it is found that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt and this will apply to anyone who was travelling in the car eg a child who wasn’t properly strapped in and who could not have been expected to know they needed to use a seatbelt.
6. How do I replace my car?
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, you’ll want to get back on the road. This will mean repairing your car or replacing it if it’s been written off completely.
Replacing your car is something that takes place relatively early in the process and it will be dealt with by the other driver’s insurance company. They will cover the cost of storage if it is the case that the car was so badly damaged that it had to be removed from the site by a tow truck. An engineer’s report will then be carried out to determine whether the car has been written off or whether it can be repaired. The insurance company will then do one of the two – they will furnish a sum to cover repairs or will pay a sum amounting to the value of the car at the time of the accident. You can also agree a figure with them for car hire if this is something that you have to pay for while your own car is off the road.
It’s perfectly fine to settle up this material side of the claim at this point and accept money for the purposes of getting you a new car/repairing your old car. This should always been done however on the basis that this settlement only affects the material damage suffered and does not, in any way, cover or attempt to settle damages for any personal injuries sustained, and this should be confirmed in writing before accepting any monies to replace your car. This is important because you want to be able to make your claim for personal injuries without having the insurance company come back and say that they have settled your claim for personal injuries also.
You may be tempted to accept a figure offered by the insurance company at this stage but you should only deal with material damage to your car. It’s worth remembering that your injuries may not have settled at this point and you could be losing out on making a more worthwhile claim at a later stage.
It’s a good idea not to take any money from your own insurance company to replace or repair your car on the basis that you will repay them out of the monies paid out by the other driver’s insurance company. The reason for this is that this will still count as a claim against your insurance and your premium could increase as a result.
As you can see, there are several things that you can do in the aftermath of an accident that will mean you have a lot of information when it comes to making a claim. If you need more information or have any queries about making a claim for personal injuries after a road traffic accident, then simply complete the contact form below and we will contact you within 24 hours.