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.


Getting home

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

    Insurers  

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.


    The Police

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


Liability


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).


Causation

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 this.

 
Quantum of Damages

How much is your claim worth?  Your claim for damages will be made up of a number of parts.


General Damages

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 history.


Special Damages

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).


Future losses

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 unusual).

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 take.

    Prepared 19/5/00 by www.motorbikeaccident.co.uk