Car accidents are the most common reason for personal injury compensation claims in Ireland, with over ten thousand people being hurt in road traffic accidents each year. Almost all (90%) of those car accidents are attributable to driver error (Road Safety Authority Report 2008).
If you are unlucky enough to be injured in a car accident, your first course of action should always be to ensure that everybody involved in the accident is safe and receives appropriate medical attention. Your health is far more important than any compensation you may receive, so when involved in a car accident, an ambulance and the Gardai should be called.
Even when you do not think that a serious injury has been sustained, it is imperative that you visit the accident and emergency department of your local hospital or make an appointment to see your local doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries may not fully show for several days, and no amount of compensation will ever make up for permanent disabilities resulting from car accidents that could have been prevented by a precautionary medical examination.
Reporting Car Accidents
When car accidents are relatively minor, the Gardai prefer not to attend – allowing the drivers to sort out an exchange of contact and insurance details between them. In this instance it is advisable to make a report to your local Garda station after the event to ensure that there is a permanent record of the car accident. Every Garda station keeps a Road Traffic Accident Report Book and your entry will be used in conjunction with your medical records to support a claim for compensation after a car accident.
The Gardai may be required to trace a hit-and-run driver, or one who has deliberately given you the wrong contact details. There are times when a liable driver may have been aggressive and refused to exchange details with you, or you were busy receiving medical attention. Again, the Gardai can help, but it is extremely important that wherever possible you make an independent record of the negligent drivers´ car registration number – the camera on a mobile phone is particularly useful for this.
Claiming for Car Accidents
When you have sustained an injury in a car accident for which you were not wholly to blame, you may claim for personal injury compensation. The procedure for this involves completing and submitting a form to the Injuries Board of Ireland, together with the Gardai report of the accident and a copy of your medical records. The Injuries Board will make an assessment based on the injuries you received and propose an amount of compensation to cover the physical trauma you suffered and any “special” damages for subsequent loss of earnings or ongoing medical costs.
The Injuries Board was established to speed up the length of time it takes for a compensation claim to be processed, reduce the number of claims for car accidents which go to court and to save the Irish taxpayer money. In these aims it has been undeniably successful, yet it does not have any obligation to provide you, as the car accident victim, with a correct – or even adequate – amount of personal injury compensation.
The vast majority (around 90%) of victims in car accidents choose to use the services of a specialist personal injury claims solicitor when approaching the Injuries Board. For your peace of mind, it is recommended that you use the services of a specialist personal injury claims solicitor.
We offer a free car accident advice line on where you can speak to one of our experienced claim solicitors to discuss your potential case. This free advice service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If now is not a convenient time simply fill in our contact form and we will call you back.
Settlement for Car Accidents
Once the assessment is made by the Injuries Board, it will be sent to both you and the liable driver’s insurance company for your acceptance. Should both parties agree on the amount to be awarded, the Injuries Board issues an Order to Pay and your car accident claim for compensation is settled. If either party disputes the amount of the assessment, the Injuries Board will issue you with an “Authority” to pursue your claim for compensation through the courts.
Frequently, the liable driver’s insurance company will approach you before the Injuries Board has made its assessment of damages to offer you an amount of money in return for an early settlement of your claim. This approach is known as “third party capture” and is designed to save the insurance companies money – at your expense.
A short-term financial injection may ease the pain suffered in the car accident, but you need to be certain that it is a fair and adequate amount to represent the trauma you have experienced, and that it is sufficient for your future requirements.
Contributory Negligence in Car Accidents
Contributory negligence in car accidents can mean two different things. Either you have made some contribution to your own injuries through a lack of care, or there is more than one negligent party responsible for your injuries.
The most obvious way you may contribute to your own injuries in a car accident is if you fail to wear a seatbelt – either as a driver or as a passenger. The Injuries Board and the courts will assume that your injuries would not have been so severe if you had been wearing a seatbelt at the time. Awards in compensation claims for car accidents are likely to be reduced by upwards of 25% in these circumstances.
An example of multiple negligence would be where one driver has caused an accident by failing to obey a road signal and colliding with a second. The second driver has also been tailgated by a third driver, who has not managed to stop in time and exacerbated the situation and injuries to the second driver. The second driver would sue both the other drivers for his injuries, and they would split payment of the compensation between them depending on the proportion of contributory negligence each is adjudged to be liable for.
Further Information on Car Accidents
Car accidents account for more than three quarters of all road traffic accidents in Ireland. The most common injuries sustained are whiplash related. As whiplash injuries start off as a stiff neck or a painful back, victims of car accidents are frequently of the opinion that they will shake them off and feel better in a few days.
The problem with whiplash injuries is that they can get worse before they get better, as they are injuries to the areas of the neck and spine which control the flow of blood to the brain and influence the nervous system.
Sometimes it may be several days before you may start to feel a pins and needles sensation in your fingers or start to get frequent headaches. Unnoticed or untreated whiplash injuries sustained in car accidents have the potential to develop into permanent disability and require victims to undergo physical therapy and cervical traction to prevent this. So it is essential that you always have a precautionary medical examination after car accidents, and if a personal injury is discovered – speak with a solicitor.