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Road accident compensation claims - Introduction

According to the Department for Transport, 24,101 people were seriously injured on Britain's roads in 2016. (2017 figures not yet available).

If you have been injured in a road accident, whether you were a driver, passenger or pedestrian, you may be eligible to claim compensation for your injuries, treatment costs, lost wages and other financial losses.

Many accidents are not reported to the police, and the National Travel Survey estimates that as many as 800,000 road users are injured annually.

Common types of road accident claim

For more specific information on the following types of accident, see:

Road traffic accident - legal definition

A road traffic accident is defined in the Road Traffic Act 1999 as:

"an accident resulting in bodily injury to any person caused by, or arising out of, the use of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place in England and Wales unless the injury was caused wholly or in part by a breach by the defendant of one or more of the relevant statutory provisions 1 as defined by section 53 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974;"

What does the law actually mean for you?

The act entitles you to claim compensation 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.

The law protects you whether you are a passenger, driver or pedestrian.

The law entitles you to claim for:

  • 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.

Do I have a road traffic accident claim?

If you were injured in a road traffic accident in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and someone else was to blame, then we can help you make a compensation claim.

What if I was partly responsible?

If you have been injured in an accident which you believe you may have been partly responsible for, usually you can still make a claim for compensation.

You may also be able to claim if your injuries were made worse because of your own actions, such as not wearing a seatbelt.

In cases where responsibility for an accident or injury is shared by both sides, compensation claims are usually resolved with a split liability agreement.

You will likely still be awarded some compensation, but the final amount will be reduced. If the Court decides that you were 25% responsible for your injuries, for example, you would receive 25% less compensation.

What if the driver is uninsured or untraceable?

Latest estimates from the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) reveal that the annual cost of uninsured driving is estimated to be £400 million per year.

It is possible to pursue a claim even if the other driver is uninsured or untraceable.

The Motor Insurers Bureau was set up to 'compensate victims of uninsured and untraced drivers fairly and promptly'. Cases put through the MIB can sometimes take a little longer and awards may be marginally less.

Has your insurer offered to handle your claim?

Some insurance companies have tried to deter genuine victims of road traffic accidents 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 the claim, remember that most insurance companies are responsible to their shareholders, not to you as the injured person.

Instructing a personal injury solicitor gives you the peace of mind that you have an independent expert 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).

What can I claim for?

Courts in England and Wales acknowledge that road traffic accidents can have a life-altering impact on an injured person and their family.

The Courts do aim, wherever possible, to return someone to the position they were in before an accident. In some cases this may be impossible, making financial compensation for treatment and ongoing care all the more important.

When calculating compensation awarded for a road traffic accident, insurance companies, solicitors and the Courts will consider:

  • medical treatment and care costs
  • anticipated future treatment and care
  • other expenses including travel costs and property damage
  • loss or reduction of mental or physical capacity
  • general pain and suffering
  • lost earnings during recovery
  • loss of earnings if unable to return to work

How much compensation can I claim for a road traffic accident?

Compensation for general damages is recommended by the Judicial College. These damages are based on the nature and seriousness of an injury and are laid out in the form of maximum and minimum awards. Use of the guidelines is usually adopted in Court and the majority of insurance companies will refer to them before making an offer.

Use our easy to use compensation claim calculator to find out how much you could be entitled to.

Examples of road accident injury compensation awards from the Judicial College tables (Updated for 2018):

Head and face injuries

Facial injuries

 

Cheekbone fracture

£1,850 to £12,580

Jaw fracture

£5,150 to £36,310

Nose fracture

£1,360 to £18,440

Loss or damage to front teeth

£1,760 to £9,100

Multiple facial fractures

£11,890 to £19,090

Eye injuries

 

Minor eye injury

£3,150 to £6,960

Minor permanent damage to vision in one or both eyes

£7,270 to £16,720

Serious loss of vision in one eye

£18,880 to £31,320

Complete loss of sight in one eye

£39,270 to £43,710

Head and brain injuries

 

Minor brain or head injury

£1,760 to £10,180

Post-traumatic stress disorder

£3,150 to £80,250

 

Neck, back and shoulder injuries

Back injuries

 

Back injury healing in a few months

Up to £1,950

Back injury healing in up to 2 years

£1,950 to £6,290

Back injury healing in 2-5 years

£6,290 to £9,970

Serious back injury with permanent symptoms

£59,120 to £70,490

Neck injuries

 

Neck injury recovering completely in up to a year

£1,950 to £3,470

Neck injury recovering completely in 1-2 years

£3,470 to £6,290

Neck injury with spinal cord damage

£72,620 to £128,320

Other neck injuries

£330 to £118,240

Whiplash injuries

Read more about whiplash compensation awards here.

Shoulder injuries

 

Minor to severe shoulder injury

£6,290 to £38,280

Arm and hand injuries

Elbow injuries

 

Serious elbow injuries

£12,480 to £43,750

Fracture of one finger

Up to £3,790

Fractured index finger with permanent symptoms

£7,270 to £9,760

Severe finger fractures

Up to £29,290

Hand injury

 

Minor hand injuries

£770 to £3,460

Serious hand injuries that heal completely

£4,640 to £10,580

Serious hand injuries with permanent loss of function

£23,110 to £49,350

Thumb injury

 

Thumb injuries healing within 6 months

Up to £3,150

More serious thumb injuries

£7,700 to £27,910

Other arm injuries

 

Forearm fractures

£5,280 to £15,300

More serious arm injuries with permanent symptoms

£15,300 to £104,370

Wrist injury

 

Wrist injury healing within 2 years

Up to £8,160

Wrist fractures and other injuries healing within 1 year

£2,810 to £3,790

Wrist injury causing permanent pain, stiffness and loss of function

£10,040 to £31,220

Leg and foot injuries

Achilles tendon

 

Minor achilles tendon injury

£5,800 to £10,040

Rupture, significant tendon damage or severed tendon

£10,040 to £30,630

Ankle injury

 

Ankle injury healing completely

Up to £10,960

Ankle injury with permanent symptoms

£10,960 to £39,910

Foot injury

 

Less severe foot injury with no permanent symptoms

Up to £10,960

Foot fractures with permanent symptoms

£10,960 to £19,920

Serious injury to one or both feet

£19,920 to £87,410

Knee injury

 

Knee injuries with no ongoing symptoms

Up to £10,960

Knee injury with mild long-term symptoms

£11,820 to £20,880

Knee injury with serious long-term symptoms

£20,880 to £34,660

Leg and knee fractures

£41,550 to £55,590

Leg injuries

 

Fractured femur

£7,270 to £11,220

Fractured tibia or fibula

Up to £9,440

Leg fractures or muscle injury with permanent symptoms

£14,320 to £67,410

Severe crushing injury or complicated leg fractures

£21,100 to £29,800

Toe injuries

 

Short-term toe injuries

Up to £7,650

Severe toe injury (such as an amputation)

£10,960 to £16,800

Traumatic loss of one or more toes

£29,110 to £44,710

Other injuries

Chest injury

 

Chest and lungs causing permanent symptoms

£24,950 to £43,710

Fractured ribs or muscle injury to the rib cage

Up to £3,150

Injury causing lungs to collapse

£1,750 to £4,240

Traumatic injury to the chest, lungs or heart with permanent damage and reduced life expectancy

£52,390 to £80,250

How long does it take to get compensation for a road accident?

Many injury claims for road traffic accidents are relatively straightforward. Compensation is often agreed quickly.

More complicated claims, or those involving more serious injury, are likely to take longer to reach a settlement.

Most claims do not go to court

Most claims do not require formal Court action, meaning the Claimant is unlikely to need to go to Court.

It is difficult to predict exactly how long it will take to reach a final settlement, but it is not always a case of 'the sooner, the better'.

In some cases it can benefit the Claimant to negotiate for longer as this can result in a higher compensation payout. This is particularly true of difficult-to-diagnose injuries like whiplash, which could last anything from a few weeks to years.

What are my chances of winning?

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 some cases, a driver may accept responsibility at the scene of a crash and then deny they caused the accident when contacted later.

How to give your claim the best chance of success

You should take the following steps as soon as possible after the accident:

  • report the incident to the police
  • get photographic evidence of the scene and check for any CCTV footage (e.g. with local businesses)
  • take photos of damage to your vehicle before it is repaired
  • collect statements of any witnesses (and their names and addresses)

These steps are still worth trying - even if some time has passed.

How does No Win, No Fee work?

A No Win, No Fee claim starts with the injured Claimant instructing their lawyer and signing up to a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). A CFA is, in essence, the terms and conditions between the solicitor and you.

The CFA document sets out the service the solicitor handling your case provides, and importantly, the success fee to be taken from your compensation award when your claim is successful.

Working with a No Win, No Fee Quittance personal injury solicitor, you are able to focus on your rest and recovery, knowing that you will never be out of pocket.

How we can help

Before deciding to make a claim, an expert injury lawyer can discuss your circumstances and will run through your choices.

Quittance's solicitors will be sensitive to the importance of your treatment and recovery. Subject to your wishes, they will advise you and guide the progress of your claim.

Compensation awards have been negotiated for injuries including:

  • Drivers injured in collisions with other vehicles
  • Passengers injured in collisions
  • Cycling accidents involving buses, cars and other traffic
  • Accidents involving pedestrians
  • Road accidents occurring in poor weather conditions
  • Accidents caused by defective brakes and poor maintenance

Road traffic accident claims advice

Your solicitor will focus on the legal work, enabling you to put your energy into recovery, and will offer clear advice throughout the claims process. If you have any concerns or questions before, during and after your road traffic accident claim, they will be able to assist.

FAQs

Can I claim if a road 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.

Can I claim for treatment and care costs following a road accident?

Yes. In addition to the “general damages” award recommended for the pain and suffering you have experienced, it is also possible to claim for “special damages”.

These special damages can include costs you have incurred during treatment, such as prescriptions and whiplash physiotherapy, and for ongoing care costs.

Do I need a lawyer to make an RTA claim?

Not necessarily - unlike most types of personal injury claim (where the claimant's decision to claim is usually the start of the process), road accident claims are often initiated by insurance companies. Insurance companies are the first to be notified, and will want to settle the matter quickly and cheaply!

It is possible to accept an insurer's offer without consulting a lawyer, but the Law Society strongly recommend that you do work with a lawyer to handle your claim. In addition to providing critical support and advice throughout the process, a solicitor will help to negotiate a settlement that accurately reflects the severity of your injury.

Will my road accident injury claim 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 harm. 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 serious liability and complex factors such as split liability.

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. Whiplash caused when a faultless driver has to brake suddenly to avoid a collision is a common example.

Can I claim compensation for an accident on a bend in the road?

Yes. Sharp bends in the road are frequently hotspots for car accidents. A compensation claim can often be made for injuries sustained in a road traffic collision, but the question of 'contributory negligence' can arise. Common reasons for collisions on road bends include:

  • Hit in the back by another vehicle - In the case of the driver colliding with a stationary car at the back of a traffic queue, it is almost certain that the driver who hit the stationary car would be liable for the accident (i.e. for not taking the necessary precautions when navigating the bend in the road).
  • Collisions when pulling out of side roads - These cases are not as clear-cut. The driver pulling out of the side road would usually be liable, as it is their responsibility to ensure that the road ahead is clear before proceeding. However, there may be mitigating factors that indicate otherwise, such as poor signage or whether the other driver was speeding.
  • Accidents when overtaking on a bend - The car that was driving on the opposite (wrong) side of the road will almost always be liable for any accidents.

The Courts will consider each situation on its own merits. As with all claims, the available evidence must be examined in order to understand who is responsible for the accident.

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, a Claimant must prove that the accident was caused by an 'actionable defect'. A Claimant must be able to prove that the defect is a hazard to road users.

This includes accidents caused by: potholes, uneven surfaces and 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.

Who can claim for an accident caused by merging traffic?

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' (Source: Daily Mail 2013). 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?

Road safety rules are set out in the Highway Code that specifically apply to motorways.

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, overtaking and emergencies.

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, distance travelled against time and breaks.

Road traffic accident case study

£20,000 awarded to passenger following collision View case study