If you are involved in an accident that was not your fault it can totally disrupt your life. If you are injured it can mean long breaks from work, not to mention the pain and discomfort of the injury itself.
Despite many claims in the media that we are moving towards a 'compensation culture' it is not unreasonable for anyone to consider legal action to get compensation for this stress and disruption caused.
Personal injury claims
Anyone who has been involved in a road accident that was not their fault is entitled to make a personal injury claim. Even as a passenger in the vehicle that was struck by the at-fault driver you can still make a claim against their insurer.
If you are travelling as a passenger with the at-fault driver and you are injured, this can put you in the awkward position of having to claim against the friend or relative that was driving. Just remember that the whole purpose of insurance is to allow you to be protected in these situations and the process is usually quite straightforward.
Before taking legal action
The most important aspect of considering whether you can pursue a legal claim against another driver is your ability to prove that the other driver was the cause of your accident and subsequent injuries. It is vital that you collect as much information as you can at the scene to establish your case.
Probably the most important thing you can have to help your case is to have one or more independent witnesses. If someone has stopped at the scene of an accident they may be inclined to leave when the emergency services arrive or when they feel that the situation is under control. Accident scenes can often be busy with many people milling around and sometimes people may feel that they don't want the hassle of being involved, but try to get their names, addresses and contact numbers before they leave the scene. If you your injury is too severe to allow you to collect this information yourself, you could ask a fellow passenger to do it for you or you could just contact the police and ask for the information at a later date.
Once you have got the details of your witnesses you should take some notes and if you have a phone with a camera, take photos of the positions of the vehicles relative to each other, skid marks, number plates and damage to vehicles. Also if you suspect that the at-fault driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, be sure to tell the police when they arrive.
Pursuing a legal action
If you decide to take legal action you can do this in consultation with your insurer or a claims management company. Under current UK law you are entitled to pursue legal action relating to an accident claim at any time up to 3 years from the date of the accident. It is however always a good idea to get things underway as soon as possible while the events are still fresh in your mind, and your witnesses are more likely to be willing to help.
Do worry about having to go to court because in the majority of cases settlements can be agreed upon without having to participate in formal court proceedings.
Remember that your solicitor is unlikely to advise you to go ahead with formal court proceedings unless they feel that there is a good chance of winning the case. It is in the interests of your solicitor to win and so they will always do their utmost to help you through the process and make it as easy as possible.
Points to consider
Before taking legal action you consider the following:-
If the accident was someone else's fault, you will need to prove it
Get the contact details of all those involved and ideally those of any independent witnesses
Make notes at the time of the accident, before you forget them
Take photos of damage, vehicle positions or anything that might visually support your claim
Speak to your insurer or claims advisor. They should be able to offer legal advice on your chances of a successful claim
Ensure that you have a solicitor that does not deduct fees from your compensation claim
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