What to do if you've had an accident
The details below are intended as guidance only as to what to do if
you have an accident and want to recover damages. They have
been prepared by the solicitors behind www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk.
Contact them for more help or for instant advice over the phone or
on line. Claiming damages is probably something that most
people will need professional help with.
At the scene
The first thing to remember is to stay calm. The other driver may be
screaming at you that it was "your fault" but slanging matches by
the side of the road achieve little.
Exchange name, address and insurance details with the other
driver. Although there is a legal obligation to give these
details, if they don't have their insurance details with them don't
worry, but take their registration number and details of their
vehicle. See if there are any witnesses. Get them to write down
their name and address for you and ask them what they saw (but avoid
the roadside argument over whose fault it was).
Whether to call the police or not is a matter of personal choice. If
everybody is acting rationally and nobody was seriously hurt, the
police will probably not be too interested.
If you've got a camera with you, take a few pictures before the
vehicles are moved but remember safety first. If your accident was
in the outside lane of a busy motorway your priority should be to
get yourself to a safe position and not to leave the vehicles
unmoved until the police arrive.
Check the roads for skid marks, loose gravel, road signs and if
there is something significant point it out to the other driver.
Remember to be polite and civil. Everyone will be upset and all that
you need to do is get through the first 30 minutes post accident
with the minimum of fuss.
If your bike is rideable then ride gently home. It may look ok but
if you have suffered an impact then it's likely that something has
been disturbed which may not be immediately apparent. If the bike is
not rideable, then many insurance policies include a "free" recovery
service to get you home.
If you are injured then get yourself to a hospital to be checked
out. What you think is "just bruising" may be something more
serious and it is better to be safe than sorry. In terms of
any future claim it is worth being checked out right at the
beginning so that an early medical opinion is recorded.
If you are unfortunate enough to have more serious injuries and need
an ambulance then simply lie back and let the professionals take
over. If you are with mates then don't worry about the
recovery of your bike, witnesses or photographs. If the police are
in attendance then they should see to the recovery of your property
to a safe place.
When you get home
Notify your insurers without delay. You will need to contact
your insurance company even if only to report the fact of the
accident. However much you think that you are in the right it is not
beyond the bounds of possibility that the other driver will turn
round and try to blame you. Report your accident to your own
insurance company at the earliest opportunity and let them worry
about any potential claim.
There is an obligation to report to the police any road accident
that involves injury or property damage. The accident must be
reported as soon as reasonably practicable or within 24 hours. It is
a criminal offence not to do so. So now you know.
Write your statement
When you get home write out in as much detail as you can EVERYTHING
you remember about the accident. Put in every possible detail. Your
memory as to what happened will be at its best now. If you have some
notes that you have written within 24 hours of the accident these
will be believed much more than a statement that you try and prepare
perhaps some 2 years later.
Starting your claim
If the accident was not your fault then you are entitled to pursue a
claim for damages against the other driver. Contact your own
solicitor or visit www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk for information on a
firm of solicitors who may be able to help you. If you were to blame
then you will be limited to claiming the damage to your bike on your
own comprehensive policy. Don't forget to check whether you
have any accident/sickness cover, for example on your HP agreement.
Many motor insurance policies nowadays include legal expenses
insurance cover. Your legal expenses insurers will often nominate a
firm of Solicitors to deal with a claim on your behalf. The
choice is however yours. You have an absolute right to choose
whichever Solicitor you want to deal with your claim. If you choose
your own Solicitor to deal with your case then tell him (or her)
that you have legal expenses insurance and they should be able to
sort out the terms of cover. If you don't have legal expenses
insurers then many Solicitors will offer a " no win no fee "
agreement but terms do differ.
Choosing a solicitor
Visiting www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk is (of course) a good starting
point but if you are looking elsewhere then pick a solicitor who is
experienced in dealing with accident claims. Membership of APIL (The
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers), MASS (The Motor Accident
Solicitors Society) or the Law Society Accident Line are all
indications of Solicitors who know what they are doing.
Don't worry about cost. This is the thing that stops most
people contacting a solicitor but it shouldn't. Most
solicitors offer free consultations to assess a claim and will talk
to you openly about cost. If you have legal expenses
insurance, end of problem. If you win costs are recoverable
from the other driver. A conditional fee agreement ("No win no fee")
will take the worry out of losing.
What will your solicitor do?
Your Solicitor will be trying to establish three things: liability,
causation and quantum of damages
Whose fault was the accident? In most road accidents liability
is fairly straightforward (if somebody pulls out of a side road in
front of you for example) but there are still disputes. Sometimes
damages are reduced to reflect contributory negligence (ie that you
were partly to blame).
What effect did the accident have? It must be established that the
damages (see below) you are claiming arise as a result of the
accident. If, for example, you are claiming loss of earnings because
you are off work with a bad back then you will have to show that
your back injury occurred as a result of the accident (and then
because of this back injury you couldn't work). Your solicitor
will arrange an examination by an independent doctor to help prove
Quantum of Damages
How much is your claim worth? Your claim for damages will be
made up of a number of parts.
This is a sum of money to compensate you for the pain suffering and
loss of amenity that you have had as a result of the accident. The
figure is ultimately fixed by comparing your injuries and the
effects on you with other previously decided cases. In order to
prove the level of your injuries your solicitor will need to obtain
a medical report from an independent doctor. This will detail the
injuries you have and the effect upon you, the treatment you
received, the recovery you have made and the prognosis. This
independent doctor will need to examine you and will (probably) need
to look at X- rays, hospital and GP records to establish the
treatment you have received and rule out any previous relevant
Special damage is a term used to cover any financial losses that you
have suffered as a result of the accident. This can start with the
cost of repairs to your bike (or your excess if you are insured
fully comprehensively) your helmet and clothing, recovery charges,
taxi fares home, moving through prescriptions, travelling expenses
to attend hospital, loss of earnings and the cost of care if you are
unable to look after yourself because of your injuries. You will
find a detailed checklist of some of the things that can be claimed
on the www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk web site.
Get receipts whenever you can for expenses and if you cannot get
receipts keep a list of the expenses you incur and the effects of
the accident on you (we suggest that you buy a diary and simply make
an entry every time you have an expense).
If at the time the case is settled there are expenses that are
continuing then these can be calculated on a future basis for as
long as is necessary.
How long will it take?
Ask your solicitor to apply for a payment straight away (an interim
payment) for the cost of repairs to your bike and any other out of
pocket expenses. A lot depends on the attitude of the insurance
company but you should be able to get an interim payment in the
first couple of months (our record is next day although that was
It will take 9-12 months to negotiate settlement in a fairly
"typical" personal injury case when liability is not in
dispute. If however the medical prognosis is uncertain then it
is often advised that a settlement of the case be delayed whilst a
full recovery is made. Although the court does have the
ability to award "provisional damages" most cases are settled once
and for all.
Most cases will be settled in 12-18 months but many things vary and
you should speak to your solicitor about how long your case will
Prepared 19/5/00 by www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk