Making a car accident compensation claim
If you have been injured in a car accident that was caused by the negligence of another road user, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
No Win, No Fee
Making a No Win, No Fee injury claim following a road collision ensures that you will have nothing to pay if your claim is unsuccessful.
You can start a claim without needing to worry about upfront legal fees, with no risk that you will be out of pocket, and no hidden charges.
You can be compensated for:
- your injury
- medical expenses
- lost income (including future earnings)
Compensation can be awarded to the driver or passenger of the car or any other party injured in the accident including pedestrians, motorcycle riders and cyclists.
You may also be able to make a claim if you were an innocent passenger in the car, van, bus or coach that caused the road accident.
The following article aims to answer all of your preliminary questions. If you would like to speak to a claim expert, you can arrange a callback online, or call our specialist team on 0800 612 7456.
Are car accidents in the UK on the rise?
According to UK Department for Transport data there were over 181,384 road casualties, including 24,101 seriously injuries, and around 1,792 fatalities in 2016.
These figures represent an increase of 4% since 2015, indicating that Britain's roads are not getting safer.
Key things to do after a car accident
There are a few steps you can take after a car accident to both maximise your chances of winning your case and getting the best possible compensation payout:
- Call the police to the scene of the accident. Eve if the injuries sustained are not that serious at the time, further complications may arise. If the police attend the scene then the will create an official police report which may help your case at a later stage.
The report will contain all pertinent information and may even include an opinion of where the fault lies. You should obtain a copy of the report.
- If you can, obtain names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses,
- Seek medical attention asap even if the injuries are relatively minor. Ask the medical professional to provide written evidence of the consultation and any treatment.
- Write an account of what happened and include everything you can think of, eve if it does not seem that relevant at the time.
- Take photos of everything including your injuries, any damage to the car, the accident scene etc. Photos should be taken from as many angles as possible.
- After the accident you should retain any receipts for expenses incurred as a result if the accident. Retain all relevant correspondence.
- Keep a diary about your injuries, Be specific and include as much detail about the level of pain and inconvenience being experienced.
- Ask your employer to write a letter confirming the amount of time you have had off work, any impairment to doing your job and confirmation of any loss of earnings.
Due to the nature of car accidents, the types of injuries suffered can range from minor scrapes and bruises to serious, lifelong disability. If you were injured in a car accident that wasn't your fault, we cover all types of injuries, including:
Whiplash and soft-tissue injuries
Whiplash and soft-tissue injuries
The law concerning soft tissue injuries could be changing soon. Read more detail about awards for whiplash compensation.
|Minor brain or head injury||£1,760 to £10,180|
|Less severe brain damage||£12,210 to £34,330|
|Moderate brain damage||£34,330 to £174,620|
|Moderately severe brain injury||£174,620 to £224,800|
|Very severe brain damage||£224,800 to £322,060|
Back and spinal injury
|Back injury recovering in a few months at most||Up to £1,860|
|Back injury recovering in up to 2 years||£1,950 to £6,290|
|Back injury recovering in 2-5 years||£6,290 to £9,970|
|Temporary paraplegia||In the region of £39,330|
|Paraplegia||£174,620 to £226,610|
|Tetraplegia or quadraplegia||£258,740 to £322,060|
Fractures and broken bones
|Cheekbone fracture||£1,850 to £12,580|
|Jaw fracture||£5,150 to £24,300|
|Colles wrist fractures||In the region of £5,920|
|Fractured forearm||£5,280 to £15,300|
|Fractured femur (thigh bone)||£7,270 to £11,220|
|Fractured tibia or fibula (lower leg)||Up to £9,440|
|A single noticeable scar or several superficial scars||£1,800 to £5,950|
|Several noticeable scars or a disfiguring scar||£6,240 to £18,120|
|Burns covering 40% or more of the body||No less than £83,550|
Fatal car accidents
When a very serious road accident has caused a fatal injury, compensation may be sought by the dependants of the person who was killed in the crash.
According to Government data, 'vulnerable' road users, including motorbike riders and cyclists, are particularly likely to be involved in severe and fatal road accidents. 100 cyclists were killed on Britain's roads in 2015, and 365 motorcyclists were fatally injured.
If another driver, cyclist or pedestrian's negligent behaviour led to the fatal accident, a claim can be started within three years of the injured party's death. It is possible to make a claim even if some time has elapsed between the accident and the person's death, provided that the injuries sustained in the collision were the cause.
Although court awards for 'general damages' in respect of a fatal injury are relatively low, compared to the compensation paid for serious, life-changing harm such as paralysis or brain injury, dependants can also claim for lost future earnings, and additional costs such as for care and treatment and funeral expenses.
Do I have a car accident claim?
To be eligible to make a compensation claim, a claimant must meet the following criteria :
- The car accident must have occurred in the past 3 years. In practice, most solicitors are reluctant to consider taking on cases where the accident happened more than 2 ½ years ago.
- The injury must have been sustained as a result of the recklessness or negligence of another driver or road user. If you were partly to blame for the accident, it may still be possible to pursue a claim for “contributory negligence”
- The injury sustained must be as a direct result of the accident.
If you meet the above basic criteria, you are may have a claim.
See our Online Claim Eligibility Calculator for a better idea of where you stand.
How much compensation can I claim for a car accident?
The compensation that is awarded to a person injured in a road collision is calculated based on three factors;
- the seriousness of their injury,
- the other financial losses they have incurred,
- and whether they were partly responsible for their injury.
For example, if you suffered a broken wrist in the accident, you could be awarded in the region of £5,650 (based on Judicial College guidelines). If your monthly salary is £2,200, and you had to take two unpaid weeks off work, you may be able claim an additional £1,100.
If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, for example, and your injuries were more serious than they would have been if you had worn the seat belt, the court might reduce your compensation.
This is to take into account the degree to which you contributed to your injury, also known as “contributory negligence”.
How long do I have to claim?
If you were an adult driver or passenger at the time of the car accident, you have three years to file a formal claim. However, solicitors recommend that you seek medical attention and legal advice as soon as possible after the crash.
Starting your claim as soon as possible ensures that evidence and witness statements can be more easily gathered, and ensures that the parties involved have plenty of time to investigate the claim.
A claim can be made on behalf of a passenger under 18 years old at any point until their 18th birthday. The child then has another three years (until their 21st birthday) to start a claim themselves.
Sometimes there are exceptional circumstances that can affect the claim limitation date. To calculate your exact limitation date see our Claim limitation date calculator.
The 'Claims Portal'
In 2010, the Government rolled out an initiative aimed at reducing the time and costs involved in running lower-value road traffic injury claims. The initiative was called the 'Road Traffic Accident Personal Injury Scheme' but it is more commonly referred to as the 'Claims Portal'.
The Claims Portal makes it easy for solicitors to enter all the information needed by the defendant's insurers and the courts to consider the case. The Portal also tracks key dates in the process, to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays.
The Claims Portal is used for claims where the value is estimated to be below £25,000. The process is designed to get qualifying claims settled in under six months.
If your car accident claim is valued at below £25,000 there is a good chance that you will receive a compensation settlement far sooner than you would have before the introduction of the portal.
How long does the road accident claims portal take?
There are three key stages when processing a claim through the Portal:
- Investigating the claim - Your solicitor fills out a Claim Notification Form (CNF) and sends this to the defendant (the road user responsible for the accident). The defendant (or usually their insurers) must acknowledge receipt within 1 working day. The defendant then has 40 days to respond, and either admit or deny liability.
If the defendant admits they were fully responsible for the collision, the claim proceeds to stage 2.
- Negotiating a settlement - Independent medical evidence is used to help calculate an appropriate amount of compensation. Your solicitor sends this figure to the other side, and they then have 35 more days to negotiate this amount with you, and agree a final settlement.
- Litigation - If the two sides cannot agree on a settlement figure, the defendant pays their final offer to you. You can then start court proceedings to recover the higher amount.
If the defendant or their insurer denies liability, or only accepts that they were partly responsible, the claim leaves the Portal time frame. Negotiations to reach a settlement may continue, or the claim may ultimately go to court.
Can I still claim if the other driver denies fault?
If the driver, pedestrian or cyclist that you believe caused the accident does not accept blame, you can still usually make a claim. In these circumstances, the claims process could take longer to resolve.
A driver will sometimes admit fault at the scene of an accident, but change their story later. Your solicitor will work with you to gather the necessary evidence to prove your account of events, including photos, CCTV footage and physical evidence, police reports and witness statements.
Faced with evidence, the other side's insurance company is likely to accept liability and negotiate a settlement. Court action is rarely necessary, as insurance companies generally prefer to avoid the higher legal costs of fighting a case in court.
Can I claim if I was partly responsible for the collision?
'Contributory negligence' describes situations where the driver injured in an accident was partly responsible for ('contributed to') their injuries.
Examples of contributory negligence include:
- Where the claimant's injuries are more severe because they were not wearing a seat belt
- Where a pedestrian crosses the road without looking, and is hit by a vehicle travelling over the speed limit
Each claim is assessed based on the facts of the case, and although the injured party could still receive damages, their compensation will be reduced by a percentage.
This percentage represents the degree to which the claimant is to blame for their injuries. For example, if an injured driver is found to be 20% to blame, their compensation will be reduced by 20%.
Accidents involving multiple vehicles
In situations where there are numerous cars involved (sometimes referred to as 'concertina collisions'), it can often be difficult to apportion blam.
In heavy traffic, it is entirely possible that the person responsible, such as a driver braking unexpectedly, may not even be involved in the accident itself.
It may be that the negligent driver's actions caused the driver behind them to break suddenly too, triggering the pile-up.
Calculating blame and compensation payouts for a multi-car accident
Compensation is dependent on the circumstances of the accident and the involvement of the Claimant.
For example, if a Claimant is hit from behind and forced into the car in front, through no fault of their own, they would receive a larger compensation sum than they would get if they were partly responsible.
If a Claimant sees an accident ahead and is unable to stop their vehicle in time to prevent a collision with the car in front, because they were driving to close to the vehicle ahead, then the Claimant's compensation may be reduced. They would be considered partly responsible for the pile up and for their own injuries.
Legal advice should always be sought to assess the chances of the claim being successful under such relatively complex circumstances.
Accidents caused by family members
The Courts now recognise that the emotional impact of a road accident can often be as disruptive as the physical injuries. This post-traumatic stress can be aggravated in cases where a family member was responsible for the accident.
Making a claim against a parent, sibling or partner in order to receive this compensation can be a difficult decision.
If a family member is responsible for your injury, a solicitor should understand the sensitivities. The process itself should involve the family member's insurance company and solicitor, rather than the family member personally.
Claims by persons under 18 for car accident injuries caused by family members
Children injured in car accidents while passengers in a family member's vehicle are entitled to make personal injury claims.
Persons under 18 making a compensation claim must have a parent or guardian to assist them, as a litigation friend.
If a parent was the driver in the accident, this parent cannot act as the litigation friend. This would be deemed a conflict of interest by the Court. The non-driving parent, a family friend or grandparent could act as the litigation friend assisting in the claim.
Unknown or uninsured driver claims
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a 'hit and run' untraceable driver, or the driver responsible for the accident did not have insurance, you may still be able to apply for compensation.
Claims relating to injuries inflicted by unidentified or uninsured drivers are handled by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). The MIB's scheme will pay out compensation provided that the unknown or uninsured party can still be proven to have caused the accident. You can apply directly to the MIB yourself, or with the assistance of a lawyer.
The MIB may also pay damages for accidents caused by foreign-registered drivers, under the Bureau's 'Green Card' scheme.
Claiming for an accident caused by a vehicle fault
Over half of all road accidents are caused by driver error. In some cases, however, a vehicle fault can either cause or contribute to a road accident.
Road users have a duty to keep their vehicle in good working order, but it may be possible to claim if a mechanical malfunction is the result of the negligence of a car manufacturer or garage.
Injuries caused by faulty airbags, for example, may result in a successful claim against a car manufacturer. A garage may be responsible if they negligently fitted a damaged replacement part.
If you believe a fault may have caused a road collision, your solicitor may recommend that an independent, qualified mechanic inspect the vehicle.
What impact will the impending personal injury reforms have on my clam?
The Ministry of Justice recently announced major changes to the way claims for shorter-term injuries are handled. The most significant change likely to affect road users is the significant reduction of compensation awards for whiplash and other soft tissue injuries.
For example, under the current guidelines you could claim between £2,050 and £3,630 for a neck or back soft tissue injury lasting between 4 and 6 months. Once the new injury tariffs are in place, this amount will reduce to just £450.
The small claims limit for road accident (RTA) claims is to be raised from £1,000 to £5,000. In practice, this means that most claimants whose injuries are valued at less than £5,000 will no longer be able to pursue a No Win, No Fee claim under a Conditional Fee Agreement. You will still be able to make a claim through the small claims courts, and may do so with the help of a solicitor, but you would have to pay their costs out of any compensation you received.
If you are considering claiming for a soft tissue injury, you may wish to do so before the changes come into force. Starting a claim as soon as possible also helps your solicitor gather the evidence they need to prove you claim, and can improve the chances of your claim being successful.
Can I claim if the road condition caused my accident?
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a pothole, poorly maintained road or defective road furniture like a speed bump or level crossing, you may be able to claim compensation against the highways authority or local council responsible for maintenance of the road.
The key issue with defects like potholes or ice on the road is the question of whether the authority negligently failed to act in good time to rectify the problem. In some cases, it may be possible to claim for an accident caused by oil on the road, if you can identify the party responsible for the spill.
Proving negligence will often depend on the facts of the case, and road condition-related claims can sometimes be difficult to win. A solicitor will be able to advise further as to whether you have a strong case.
What is the claims process for a car accident?
Making a car accident claim is different (and in many ways easier) than most other types of personal injury claim. The majority of road accident claims are processed using an online portal, and according to a strict timetable.
Can I claim compensation for an accident in a car park?
If a driver suddenly pulls out of a parking space without checking and collides with your car, you could be entitled to claim compensation for whiplash and other injuries.
The Highway Code states that 'before moving off you should: use all mirrors to check the road is clear, look around to check the blind spots, signal if necessary and look round for a final check' (Gov.uk).
A failure to follow these instructions before setting off is strong evidence that of a driver's negligence for the purposes of making a claim.
Can I claim for an injury from a parking incident
At the scene of the accident, it is advisable to take photographs of the incident and collect the names and addresses of any witnesses. CCTV footage from surrounding buildings could be requested from the property owner as it may have recorded the accident.
What if the injury was from a deliberate low velocity crashes?
Low-velocity car accident claims are subjected to considerable scrutiny by insurance companies. If you believe you were unknowingly involved in a 'cash for crash' accident, you may still be able to claim compensation. A solicitor will be able to give you clearer direction on the likelihood of making a successful claim.
What is a “Knock for knock” road accident?
'Knock-for-knock' refers to cases where both drivers involved in a car accident have sustained injury or other losses. The two insurance companies representing the two drivers may come to a 'knock for knock' agreement, meaning that they each pay out the losses incurred by their own policy-holder, rather than claiming those losses from the other side. The insurers may decide this regardless of who was actually responsible.
A knock-for-knock claim can seem unfair to the driver who wasn't responsible for the accident. The innocent driver may have a claim recorded against their policy, which could in turn raise their premium. Insurers often prefer settling on this basis as it avoids extra legal costs.
Road traffic accident case study
£20,000 awarded to passenger following collision View case study