Beware of Road Traffic Collisions - Winter is Coming

Posted on October 23, 2018

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Beware of road traffic collisions. Winter is coming.

Damian Molyneux, Director and personal injury specialist Advocate at M&P Legal, has some practical and legal guidance about what to do if you find yourself involved in a road traffic collision.

Winter is well on its way. We are being urged to make sure our vehicles are in good order. We have had a good run of weather over the summer but now that is over unfortunately the road conditions and shorter daylight hours mean that it’s the time of year when more road traffic collisions occur. Depending upon which website you look at, the risk of being in a road traffic collision in winter can increase by 30% or so. What do you do if you are?

In the immediate aftermath of a vehicle collision the most important thing is to check everyone is OK. If you think anyone needs hospital treatment then that should be prioritised.

The law provides that anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to a person or damage to property (including other vehicles) is required to stop at the scene and exchange their names, addresses, insurance details and names of the owner of the vehicle (if different from the person driving it). In the case of an accident causing an injury to a person then a certificate of insurance should also be produced and the accident should be reported to the police (the certificate of insurance can be produced at a police station within 24 hours of the accident if not immediately available) . Failure to comply with any of these requirements is an offence that can result in a fine (up to £5,000), penalty points and/or worse, imprisonment (up to 9 months).

If the vehicle is still in a condition whereby it can be moved, and it is safe to do so, then move it to a safe location, turn off the engine, switch on the hazard warning lights and deploy any other warning devices the car may have (for example triangular reflective warning signs). If it is not possible to move the vehicle to a safe location, or if you think drink or drugs may be a factor, then the police should be called.

At this stage and once everything is made safe, it is also a good idea if possible to make notes about the circumstances of the accident. If you can, take photographs of the location of the accident and the vehicle damage. Note road conditions, weather, volume of traffic and any factors that may be related to the accident such as lines of sight approaching junctions, parked cars etc. Speak to anyone who witnessed the accident and ask them for their contact details if they are willing to give them.

Once the immediate aftermath of the accident has been dealt with, you should report the accident to your insurer or insurance broker. A failure to do so quickly could affect your cover. Usually the insurance companies of the vehicles involved will liaise with each other to resolve how insured losses are to be dealt with (i.e. repairs to vehicles/accident damage).

If the accident has caused an injury or any other, uninsured loss (such as loss of earnings due to sickness absence, losses due to damaged items in the vehicle, damaged motorcycle equipment etc) then you may need an Advocate to act on your behalf to recover those losses. It is essential that you keep a record of all losses you may have incurred as a direct result of the accident and retain receipts and invoices, even down to prescription costs and bus fares for example. These can generally all be claimed on your behalf.

Claims for personal injury and consequential losses following an accident are generally quite straightforward. In most cases, liability is not an issue (i.e. there is no argument about who was to blame for the accident). This does not mean that claims are resolved quickly however. There is a legal procedure to follow and it is more important that a claim is pursued by an Advocate correctly rather than quickly. Generally, an advocate will need to collect evidence from his/her client, not just about the accident, but also in respect of the losses including the injuries suffered. That involves (amongst other things) obtaining medical records and the instruction of specialist medical experts to provide an opinion and prognosis as to the injuries suffered so that the advocate can accurately quantify the value of the likely award a court would make according to the type and severity of injury suffered.

The more complex/severe the injuries involved are, then the more time a claim is likely to take, but advocates can help relieve any financial pressure in the meantime by exploring the possibility of the third party insurer making interim payments on account of damages and/or perhaps assisting with payments for medical treatment. You will often also find that advocates have built up relationships with clinicians over the years when dealing with claims and can recommend treatment providers where needed based upon years of experience. The costs of obtaining medical treatment privately is generally a recoverable expense (if reasonable) in non-fault accidents.

The end result of all of this should be recovery of compensation for your losses. When you have been injured as a direct result of an accident then money will rarely fully compensate for the pain and suffering caused but it is the only mechanism by which the legal system can try to do so.

A final word about legal costs. Advocates’ fees are generally settled separately once a successful claim has been made on behalf of a claimant and without deduction from the damages obtained for them. Conditional Fee Agreements (sometimes referred to as “no win no fee” agreements) are illegal on the Isle of Man. This is not something that English insurance companies are always aware of and there is a tendency for them to refer their policyholder to English solicitors. That should be resisted, not just because of the difficulty they will have recovering their fees, but more importantly because Isle of Man law is different from English law and so it is vital that a Manx Advocate deals with a claim in respect of an accident which happened on the Isle of Man or else it could affect the ability of a claimant to recover everything to which they would otherwise be entitled.

NB: Specific advice must be sought in each case. This article is for guidance only.

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