A Guide to Claiming Car Accident Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a car accident we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a car accident and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Car accident statistics

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 any safer.

Do I have a car accident claim?

As a basic rule, you will be eligible to make a car accident claim if your injury happened:

  • in the last three years and;
  • someone else was to blame.

Even if these two points don't apply to you, a claim may still be possible.

It costs nothing to find out - speak to a legally trained adviser on 0800 612 7456.

A brief phone consultation will confirm whether you have a claim. We will not put you under pressure to make a compensation claim.

You can also find out if you have a claim with our Online Claim Checker.

What if the road accident was my fault?

If you think you were partly responsible for the road accident or for your injury, it should still be possible to make a claim.

In these cases, claims are usually settled with a split liability agreement.

For example, if you were 50% responsible for your injuries, you would receive 50% less compensation.

Read more about when there is uncertainty as to who is to blame.

What if the driver was uninsured or untraceable?

If the driver responsible for the injury is either uninsured or untraceable, a claim can be pursued through the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB is an independent body that pays road accident compensation to the victims of uninsured or untraced (unidentified) drivers.

Read more

What if a child was injured?

The 3 year rule does not apply to minors.

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 car accident claim on their own behalf.

Read more about claiming injury compensation on behalf of a child.

What if the other party denies liability?

If the defendant denies liability, your solicitor will build the strongest possible case in order to prove that the defendant is responsible for your car accident. Ultimately the solicitor will issue court proceedings on the defendant. Often this prompts an admission of liability before proceedings begin.

Check my claim

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for the accident?

'Contributory negligence' describes situations where the driver injured in an accident was partly responsible for ('contributed to') their injuries.

    Even at the scene of an accident, it is not always obvious which driver was responsible for the crash.

    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

    In cases where responsibility for an accident or injury is shared by both sides, it should still be possible to claim compensation. These 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 there is uncertainty as to who is to blame?

    How much compensation can I claim for a car accident?

    The amount of money you could claim for your car accident will depend on:

    • the extent of your injury, and
    • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

    At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your car accident has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

    This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

    General damages

    General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

    Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

    Special damages

    Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

    What can I claim for after a car accident? (see list)

    Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

    • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
    • Medical treatment costs
    • Physiotherapy
    • Travel costs
    • Costs of care
    • Costs of adapting your home or car

    How is compensation calculated if I have multiple car accident injuries?

    If you have sustained multiple injuries, the compensation amounts are not simply added together.

    The upper bracket of the most serious injury may be considered as a starting point, with a reduced amount applied for the other less severe injuries.

    For example:

    General damages for a serious shoulder injury can be £15,000

    For a less severe ankle injury, in isolation, you would typically receive £8,000.

    However, if you have a serious shoulder injury and a less severe ankle injury, you would typically receive £15,000 + a reduced percentage of £8,000.

    Special damages, such as loss of earnings are not usually increased if you have multiple injuries.

    What is the average injury compensation for a car accident claim?

    The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

    However, the money you would receive following a car accident will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

    Your car accident compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

    See the injury table above for some examples.

    Find out what your car accident claim could be worth now

    Assessing a claim's value at the outset can be complicated, particularly if you have multiple injuries.

    If you would like a FREE claim estimate with no obligation to start a claim, call 0800 612 7456.

    Alternatively, our compensation calculator will give you an instant estimate of what your claim is worth.

    Is it worth claiming for multiple minor injuries?

    Yes. even relatively minor injuries can result in reasonable compensation settlements, especially if you have incurred expenses or taken time off work as a result of the accident.

    Calculate my claim

    How long do I have to make a car accident claim?

    In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the car accident to make an injury claim.

    The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your car accident claim becomes 'statute barred'.

    Can I claim for a car accident after 3 years?

    For adults, the general rule is no, you cannot start a claim more than three years after a car crash or other road accident.

    However, if you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

    In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a car accident claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

    Will I still be able to claim for a car accident after the law changes in April 2020?

    The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

    You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

    In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

    Caring and sensitive support

    Your solicitor will handle your car accident claim from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:

    • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
    • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
    • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
    • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

    Typical injuries

    Due to the nature of car accidents, the types of injuries suffered can range from minor scrapes and bruises to serious, lifelong disability.

    Quittance's panel of personal injury solicitors have recovered compensation for people with injuries including:including:

    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.

    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
    • additional costs such as for care and treatment and funeral expenses.

    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.

    Read more about claiming on behalf of a child.

    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.

    Unidentified or uninsured driver claims are handled by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) .

    The MIB 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.

    Read more about claimoing comensation through the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB)

    How to start a claim

    Speaking to a specialist road traffic accident solicitor at an early stage should help to reduce your stress and financial burden after an accident, so you can focus on your recovery.

    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.

    How can Quittance help?

    Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning road accident claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you.

    If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

    Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

    Call me back

    • Tick icon FREE
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    • Tick icon Find out
      if you can claim
    • Tick icon No obligation
      to start a claim

    No win, no fee

    With a no win, no fee agreement, your solicitor agrees that you will have no legal fees to pay if you do not winn your claim .

    Our no win, no fee promise

    Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is absolutely no financial risk in making a car accident claim - even if you don't win your claim.

    What do I pay if I win my car accident claim?

    Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your compensation is awarded. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. You and your solicitor can agree the success fee before you start your claim.

    What do I pay if I do not win my car accident claim?

    If your car accident claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees .

    Read more about how no win, no fee works

    Please note, under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.

    How can Quittance help?

    Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning road accident claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you.

    If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

    Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

    Call me back

    • Tick icon FREE
      consultation
    • Tick icon Find out
      if you can claim
    • Tick icon No obligation
      to start a claim

    Car accident injury FAQ's

    Can I claim for someone else?

    Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

    If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

    The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

    Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

    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 injured car or vehicle passengers get compensation?

    Will I have to go to court?

    Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by Quittance’s solicitor panel are settled out of court.

    Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

    Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

    Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

    Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

    No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

    Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

    Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

    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).

    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 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.

    Read more about claims for road accident compensation without a seatbelt.

    What should I do if my insurer wants me to claim through them?

    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).

    Can I 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.

    How long does a road injury claim take?

    Minor injuries typically take four to nine months to pay out.

    More complex or serious injuries can take longer.

    Read more: How long does a personal injury claim claim take?

    Read more FAQ's

    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.

    Read more about the difference between knock for knock and 50:50 claims.

    What is 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.

    What if the accident involved multiple vehicles?

    In situations where there are numerous cars involved (sometimes referred to as 'concertina collisions'), it can often be difficult to apportion blame.

    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.

    What if the accident was caused by a family member?

    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.

    Can I claim if the accident was 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.

    Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

    About the author

    Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

    Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert