A guide to road accident compensation claims
If you have been injured in a road traffic accident in the last three years that was not your fault, you could be entitled to make a road accident compensation claim,
This article sets out everything you need to know about making a successful road accident compensation claim.
The statistics are shocking
In the last three years, according to the 2017 National Travel Survey, 10% of adult road users were involved in an accident on the roads . A third of these people suffered an injury.
26,610 drivers and other road users were seriously injured or killed in road accidents in 2018, according to data published by the Department of Transport. This number represents a small increase on 2016.
Including more minor injuries, a total of 165,100 people suffered some level of injury on Britain's roads last year.
If you have been injured in a road accident, we can help you
Our road traffic injury solicitors can help you:
- Claim the financial compensation you deserve
- Get interim payments in advance of your final compensation settlement
- Secure funding for your treatment and other costs
- Obtain financial support while you are unable to work.
- Access treatments and therapies not always available on the NHS
- Co-ordinate with rehabilitation providers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists
- Access personal injury trust, tax and welfare benefits advice
Are you looking for information on a specific type of road accident claim?
The law is on your side
The law entitles you to make a road accident compensation claim for your injuries if you have been a victim of an accident involving a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree or utility pole.
- financial losses you have suffered or may suffer in the future
- loss of wages if you have had to take time off work
- the cost of medical treatment
- any other costs or expenses, including vehicle repairs.
A claim should be possible if you were injured in a road accident:
- in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and
- someone else was to blame.
Even if you qualify, however, some solicitors may not take on your claim for other reasons.
Even at the scene of a road accident, it is not always clear who was responsible for the crash.
In these cases, claims are usually settled with a split liability agreement.
The claimant will usually still be awarded some compensation, but the compensation award will be reduced. For example, if the court decides that you were 50% responsible for your injuries, you would receive 50% less compensation.
What if the other driver is uninsured or untraceable?
It is possible to pursue a road accident claim even if the other driver is uninsured or untraceable.
The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) was set up to 'compensate victims of uninsured and untraceable drivers fairly and promptly'.
I have a strong claim - why won't a solicitor take it on?
Your compensation settlement will be based on:
- General damages are awarded for “pain, suffering and loss of amenity”. General damages will be calculated based on the severity of your injury, and the specific impact that your injuries have had on your life.
- Special damages are awarded for any other costs or losses. These could include lost wages, the cost of medical treatment (e.g. physiotherapy or osteopathy) and any financial losses or expenses incurred.
Early/interim compensation payments
An interim payment is when you receive a part-payment of your compensation settlement before the claim has been finally settled.
Interim payments can be arranged if your road accident has left you unable to work and/or unable to pay for treatment.
To receive an interim payment, you will need to meet certain criteria.
Where the defendant driver has acknowledged that they are responsible for the road accident, the chances of winning are high.
If liability is not accepted, or only partly admitted, it can be harder to negotiate a settlement.
In the case of some road accident claims, a driver may accept responsibility at the scene of a crash and then deny they caused the accident when contacted later.
How long does a road injury claim take?
Minor injuries typically take four to nine months to pay out.
More complex or serious injuries will probably take longer.
Unless you are self-funding, claims solicitors now work on a No Win, No Fee basis.
No Win No Fee is an agreement (technically known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA') which is entered into between the injured person and the personal injury solicitor.
No Win No Fee means that if your road accident claim is not successful then you would pay no legal fees at all.
If you do win your case, a success fee will be deducted from the compensation award and paid to the solicitor.
How can Quittance help?
Quittance is a panel of personal injury solicitors specialising in road accident claims.
Our solicitors have an excellent track record of winning claims and will fight for the best possible compensation settlement.
Starting a claim is a straightforward process. A short, no obligation phone conversation with one of our expert road accident solicitors will let you know where you stand and answer any questions you may have.
If you decide that you would like to pursue a claim, the solicitor will send you an information pack. The pack will contain everything you need to know including details of how no win no fee works.
To speak to us about your claim, without obligation, call 0800 612 7456.
Meet the team
Quittance's national network of solicitors handle all types of road accident claims and have a wealth of experience in short-term, serious and life-changing injury claims. Our solicitors are chosen on the basis of their level of specialist experience and their track record in winning claims.
Do I need a solicitor to make a claim?
Technically, no, but a solicitor can help to ensure you get the correct amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Your lawyer can also correspond with the defendant and their insurance company, on your behalf, to negotiate on issues like interim payments.
Will I need to go to court?
Unlikely. Liability is often readily admitted by the driver who caused the accident, and for this reason there is usually no need for a claim to go to court in order to find who was responsible for the accident. In addition, insurance companies prefer not to go to court, as this will significantly increase their costs.
Cases will rarely go to court, and usually only if the claim involves disputed liability or other complex factors.
Who actually pays the compensation?
Road traffic accident claims are usually settled by the defendant's insurance company. If the defendant does not have insurance (or is untraceable), compensation is paid by the Motor Insurers Bureau' (MIB).
How long after the accident do I have to make a claim?
If the accident occurred within the last 3 years, you may be entitled to make a claim. Therefore, you can start a claim 1 or even 2 years after the date of the injury.
What if the passenger was a child?
Road injuries affecting children and babies are not uncommon. A claim can be pursued for anyone under the age of 18 by a parent, guardian or litigation friend. The injured child has up to the age of 21 to start a claim on their own behalf.
Can I still claim if the symptoms have cleared up?
Yes. You can, if you obtained medical attention at the time and this corroborates your injury. It will usually be necessary to obtain copies of any supporting medical evidence.
Is there a minimum speed of collision for a claim?
It is possible to sustain an injury in a low velocity collision (up to 5mph). What matters is that you have been injured, not how fast the vehicle was moving.
Can I make a claim if there was no damage to the car?
Yes. Injuries can be sustained in a low-speed collision where there is no vehicle damage. It is even possible to sustain injuries where there is no collision at all, e.g. when a driver is forced to brake suddenly.
For example, a negligent driver's conduct may cause another road user to perform an emergency stop. A collision may be avoided, but the abrupt braking could well cause a whiplash injury, particularly if your vehicle was travelling at speed.
Can I make a claim as a passenger?
Yes. From the point of view of making a claim, whether you were driving or were a passenger is immaterial. What matters is that you were injured, and that it was not your fault.
Can I make a claim if I wasn't wearing a seatbelt?
Yes. It is still possible to make a claim if you were not wearing a seat belt.
However, it would likely be assumed that you contributed to the seriousness of your injuries. This is known as contributory negligence. Your compensation award will be reduced (often by around 25%). This is to reflect the amount of compensation you would have got, if you had worn a seat belt and, therefore, received less serious injuries.
What should I do if my insurance company has contacted me?
Some insurance companies have tried to deter genuine road traffic accident claimants from claiming the full compensation to which they are entitled. Insurance companies do not want you to make a claim and will try to minimise the compensation paid out if you do claim.
If you have already been contacted by an insurance company offering to deal directly with your road accident claim, remember that most insurance companies are responsible to their shareholders, not to you as the injured person.
Instructing an expert road accident solicitor gives you the peace of mind that you have an independent specialist on your side.
A solicitor has a duty of care to you, their client, and will seek to obtain the maximum amount of compensation for the harm that has been done.
If you pursue your claim through a solicitor you have the added reassurance of being represented by a professional regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Should I accept pre-medical offer from the insurance company?
Early offers to settle are commonly made by insurance companies to claimants who have yet to speak to a solicitor.
These pre-medical offers are typically substantially lower than the compensation you would receive via a solicitor.
Should you claim through your insurance?
When you make a personal injury claim, he claim is usually handled by the negligent driver's insurance.
In these circumstances, whatever insurance coverage you have should not be affected.
Can claim if I had no insurance?
Maybe. As a passenger, you can make a claim without insurance. This is because in most cases compensation is paid out by the negligent driver's insurance company, not your own.
If you are a driver involved in an accident that was not your fault and you do not have insurance, the situation is more complicated. Driving without valid insurance is an offence. Whether you can still make a claim will depend on the facts of the case.
Can I claim if the accident made my existing symptoms worse?
Yes. You may be able to start a claim for existing injuries or medical conditions if they have worsened due to the accident or illness. Claims for existing neck injuries worsened by a sudden collision are a common example of this.
Does there have to be damage to the car to make a claim?
No. Vehicle damage is clear evidence that a collision took place, and may also support the claimant's version of events. There does not need to be damage to a car, however, in order to make or win a claim for personal injury.
It is possible to claim for injuries sustained even if a crash did not occur.
Can I claim for an accident caused by poor road markings?
Yes. Although Local Authorities have a wide range of obligations relating to signage, road markings and road condition, their liability regarding road accidents caused by these factors is often disputed. Getting expert professional advice can improve your chance of making a successful claim.
"Unclear road markings" will usually fall into one of three categories:
Worn or faded road markings - These make it difficult for drivers to know where to stop at a junction, who has right of way, or when to change lanes.
Worn markings may also fail to warn drivers of overtaking (or other) hazards.
Visible, but confusing or incomplete road markings - Confusing road markings (e.g. where a main road veers sharply when it meets a secondary road) may cause a driver to fail to give way, turn or brake unexpectedly, causing an accident.
Markings painted in error - Incorrectly applied markings are usually swiftly corrected, but if they contribute to an accident, it may be possible to make a claim against the authority responsible.
Photographs may be used as evidence to demonstrate that the lack of clarity of the road markings were a factor in the accident.
Maintenance of roads and markings is generally the responsibility of the local highway authority and it must implement a proper system of inspection and maintenance of the carriageway.
If the carriageway is defective there should be sufficient signs or other items to warn road users of the hazard until it may be repaired.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that the road must be reasonably safe for its users, therefore if a council or highway authority has failed in its duty to maintain road markings or warn users, the entity may be liable should an accident occur as a result of its negligence.
Can I claim for an accident caused by poor road condition?
Yes. A local authority has a duty of care to ensure that the roads in their area are safe. In some instances, a claim can be made against a local authority if the claimant suffers an injury due to the authority failing to ensure that a road surface is safe. This is detailed under Section 41 of the Highways Act.
To make a claim you must prove that the accident was caused by an 'actionable defect'. You must be able to prove that the defect is a hazard to road users.
This includes accidents caused by:
- uneven surfaces
- loose chippings.
Local authorities are responsible for the maintenance of public roads as well as ensuring that the roads are gritted sufficiently when road surfaces are icy and slippery.
Can I claim for an accident caused by merging traffic?
Yes. Confusion over right of way when traffic is merging can lead to driver error and road accidents. This confusion can also make it more difficult to agree on who is at fault at the scene of an accident.
Rule 134 of the Highway Code states that:
"...merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed. It is generally accepted that the vehicle moving in from one lane to another should give way to vehicles already established in a lane."
In practice, the liability for an accident in merging traffic will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Either driver could be at fault, or both drivers could be partly at fault. Fault will depend on who acted unreasonably and, by acting unreasonably, neglected their legal duty of care to other road users.
Can I claim for a road accident caused by poor signage?
Yes. The Department of Transport has admitted that Britain has 9,000 redundant or misleading road signs which need to be revised'. Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising that hundreds of road traffic accidents are caused by poor signage every year.
Poor signage could consist of unclear, obscured or incorrect instructions or directions.
Where a sign has caused or contributed to an accident, it may be possible to claim compensation.
In order to make a successful claim, your solicitor must demonstrate that the local authority failed to take adequate steps to ensure that the road signs were sufficiently clear and unobstructed.
This may be because the authority failed to carry out a regular inspection, or because they were aware of the issue but did not take any action to correct it.
What if the accident happened on a motorway?
Motorway specific road safety rules are set out in the Highway Code.
These rules are intended to reduce accidents on motorways and govern aspects of motorway use including:
- speed limits
- safe distances between vehicles
- breaking down on the motorway
- slow-moving traffic
- poor weather conditions
The courts will consider the defendant's conduct with respect to these rules. Evidence such as witness statements may be more difficult to obtain following a motorway accident.
In the case of motorway accidents involving lorries or HGV's, a device called a 'tachogram' will have been installed on the truck to record speed and distance travelled, against time and breaks.
About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.
Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert