Tipp FM Legal Slot – 13th January 2015 – New Year’s Resolutions – Road Traffic Accidents and Personal injury
On Tipp FM, John M. Lynch spoke to Seamus Martin on ‘Tipp Today’ about Road Traffic Accidents and Personal Injury in the new year.
Listen to John’s discussion:
Road Traffic Accidents – Is there anything we can do to prevent them?
Unfortunately Road Traffic Accidents have been very prevalent in the news recently. Many issues can contribute to accidents on our roads which are outside of driver control but as part of our New Year’s Resolutions series we would encourage people to do all that they can to be as safe as possible when driving. There are two extremes of drivers we come across both equally as lethal as the other. The first, is the reckless driver who carries on regardless paying no heed to the conditions themselves or the numerous warnings. And the second, is the over cautious driver, driving much too slow and creating further dangers, despite their best efforts of trying to achieve the opposite. We are all bound to be involved in a road traffic accident at some point in our lives. It might be a small tip while parking your car or something much more serious. Knowing how to deal with the situation should it arise is important.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – What should you do if you have an accident?
The very first priority goes without saying – make sure that all those involved in the accident are not injured. If there are injuries decide whether an ambulance should be called. The golden rule – if in doubt call for help!
WHAT MUST I DO – what are the practical steps to take at the accident scene following an accident?
- Stay safe! Bearing in mind the recent weather conditions, falling trees, flooding and overturning trucks, make sure that you and all of the other people involved are out of harm’s way so that there will not be any further accidents.
- Be nice! Showing concern for an injured party does not mean that you are admitting you are at fault! A little kindness goes a long way!
- Call the Gardai immediately and report the incident. If the Gardai feel that it is unnecessary for them to attend at the scene the accident should still be formally reported to the Gardai and you should attend at your nearest Garda station after the accident to deal with this.
- Exchange contact details with not only the other drivers but anyone who witnessed the accident also.
- You should also gather as much information as possible as the scene:
- Name and Address of the Driver
- Name and Address of the owner of the car
- Name and Address of Witnesses
- Insurance Details
- Vehicle registration
- Details of the Gardai in attendance
- If you are a bystander or a passer-by unless you can be of assistance you are likely to be more hindrance than help. Provide your details to the drivers at the scene or the Gardai but do not hang around to see how things pan out.
- If possible take photographs of the scene, the vehicles, the debris and road markings.
WHAT ARE THE DONTS?
- Never admit liability at the scene. It is often a condition of insurance that liability is not admitted.
- Do not move the vehicles unless absolutely necessary. Generally, the vehicles should stay as they stopped unless the Gardai advise otherwise. If it is necessary to move them make sure you obtain photographs of their positions on the road beforehand.
- Never leave the scene of an accident. This is a criminal offence. Braving the recent elements will be necessary! Remain at the scene until the Gardai have confirmed you can leave.
- Do not get angry! Getting irate at the scene can often serve to make things worse. Stay calm!
After the initial shock – what’s next?
Fess up! Inform your insurance company immediately. This should be done even if it is not your fault.
Keep a Note! Write down your account of what happened and how it happened. Don’t forget to include details of the road conditions that day. Make sure to keep all of your receipts for medical expenses and property damage.
Take photographs of your injuries to document them.
Finally, once the storm has settled watch the time! Remember, anyone who has suffered an injury following an accident only has two years to take a claim. If you were involved in an accident that was not your fault and you feel you might be entitled to compensation the time to deal with it is now.
Personal Injury – Don’t Underestimate Your Claim
What is the first step if you are injured in a Road Traffic Accident and wish to make a claim?
If you are in involved in an accident and suffer personal injury which you are seeking compensation for the first stage of the process is an application to the Injuries Board.
The Injuries Board is an independent body set up by statute to assess personal injuries claims– be it a road traffic accident, a workplace accident or slips and falls or any other kind of injury before any legal claim can be taken through the courts
Because they are independently mandated by law they do not represent someone who is involved in an accident, nor do they deal in any way with apportioning fault – they will merely take the medical and out of pocket evidence and make a determination as to what level of compensation (if any) may be appropriate based on these
Is it necessary or advisable for anyone who suffers a personal injury to contact their solicitor or can they deal with the Injuries Board directly?
Solicitors act for the injured person, not the insurance company and we represent the interests of the injured person alone.
If someone suffers an accident or injury through no fault of their own they have a right to a solicitor and to compensation.
The Injuries Board will try to keep claims low – both in numbers and cost so anyone who suffers an injury should contact their solicitor who will put the best case possible forward for them and ensure they are entitled to an amount of compensation that fully reflects the injury suffered.
One of the hallmarks of the system should be that the Board is independent and should do its job without taking sides as the two sides have differing interests – the claimant to maximise the claim and the insurer to minimise the claim.
Speaking about the Injuries Board Annual Review 2012, Patricia Byron, CEO of the Injuries Board, said: “By law, personal injury claims (with some minor exclusions set out in Statute) must come to the Injuries Board for assessment regardless of whether the claimant has legal representation or not. Direct claimants can have their claims assessed for a refundable fee of €45. In assessing claims the Board makes no distinction between a direct applicant and a claimant who pays an intermediary the equivalent of up to 10%, or even more of the value of the award. In 2012 the average assessment period was 7 months, compared with 3 years through litigation. “
In March the Irish Independent reported an increase in claims of 5% since last year and an increase of 25% since 2007. The Injuries Board revealed almost 29,000 people made a claim last year: Patricia Byron, CEO of the Injuries Board referred to the increase in compensation claims as a “claims culture”. In reality in the vast majority of cases it is simply a case of injured persons being awarded what they are entitled to.
The Injuries Board prides itself on the fact that in the majority of cases it deals with it is not necessary to instruct a solicitor to pursue a personal injury claim and claimants can deal directly with the Board.
The one sided approach shown by the Injuries Board and comments about a “claims culture” makes it all the more important for people to have independent advice which is outside the Injuries Board.
We would strongly recommend that any person proposing to make any application to the Injuries Board firstly seek legal advice.
Generally, how long would a person be waiting for the Injuries Board to resolve a claim?
The Board state that they have significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to resolve a claim from three years to seven or nine months, in most cases.
Would an injured person’s symptoms have fully developed within nine months and what happens if the claim is already settled and new symptoms arise?
In the majority of cases it can take – at a very minimum – twelve months for symptoms to fully settle down and in a lot of cases the symptoms may take substantially longer to settle down or worse have permanent effects.
It is a serious risk to accept compensation for injuries which are not fully recovered as no one knows how long the recovery process will take or if there may be lasting damage.
If you accept an assessment of compensation in the months after your accident without the proper advice you risk being hugely under compensated should your symptoms continue or even deteriorate afterwards.
Once an assessment is made by the Injuries Board and is accepted by a claimant it is in full and final settlement for that injury and there is no turning back.
The assessment process with the Injuries Board is rigid. When a personal injuries claim is taken before the Courts you submit your claim at the outset and can then update details and particulars of the injuries and wrongs prior to the hearing of the case. The Injuries Board does not allow this.
Once your application is submitted that is that and you cannot update or change your claim at a later stage. This is particularly risky where a claim is submitted before your injuries have settled down as the situation can change very quickly leaving the Board assessing what is not really the full extent of your injuries.