As personal injury solicitors, we are often contacted by victims injured in a road accident, or their families, some way down the line – usually weeks, often months and sometimes years after the accident has happened with an enquiry about bringing a claim. The delay is usually either due to the fact that they have had a serious injury or suffered a bereavement and understandably looking at a claim has been a long way down the list of priorities but is becoming necessary due to financial losses, or where the severity and impact of injuries have not been immediately obvious and it is only as time has gone on that the long term implications become apparent.
Whilst in most cases the individual or those bereaved have three years in which to bring a claim and so there is no immediate time pressure, the delay can make it more difficult to investigate and / or evidence a claim. For anyone injured in an accident who thinks they may need to bring a claim, there is merit in them / their family taking some early steps to get evidence and investigations in place which will make life easier if they do later decide to bring a claim. For those who are likely to instigate a claim early on, then again these steps will make the process quicker and easier in the long run.
Not all of these steps may be possible in the circumstances, but some points to consider include:
There is an obligation for parties involved in a road traffic accident to report the accident to the police if someone has suffered an injury. Often this is overlooked but involving the police can have a number of significant advantages – in the immediate sense they can assist in co-ordinating emergency services, notifying family members and dealing with the accident itself, but for the longer term they will document all the details given at the time of both the accident circumstances and individuals involved, including witnesses. The nature of this information and its contemporaneous nature can make a big difference later on, particularly if the facts of an accident are disputed or if those injured haven’t been in a position to get details of the other parties involved and / or witnesses. The police will keep a record of all such information and in cases involving serious or fatal injury will instigate their own investigation into what has happened.
In addition, if you were driving a vehicle at the time of the incident you should notify your motor insurers – even when it is not your fault. Having them on board at an early stage will again help with practicalities such as vehicle recovery or courtesy cars but also enable them to assist with dealing with the claim. Notifying your insurer late does not keep them on side, particularly if they have an outlay or any allegations have been made against you.
Where serious injury occurs it is often not possible to gather evidence, but where this can be done by you or your family members either at the time or soon afterwards, any or all of the following evidence can be very important in establishing liability for an accident:
You may never decide to bring a claim, but taking these early steps means that if you end up in a position where you need to pursue a claim, you already have the key evidence available to help establish your case as quickly as possible in order to secure damages.
If you do decide to instruct solicitors to bring a personal injury claim, you should ‘do your homework’ and make sure that they are specialist personal injury solicitors. This includes checking their experience of dealing with your type of case / injury, who will deal with your case and what their credentials are. Good places to check credentials / expertise are through contacting the Law Society and requesting their list of accredited personal injury solicitors in your area, or by contacting APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) via their website for a list of accredited solicitors. Both have stringent accreditation requirements and should ensure that you find a solicitor with the right expertise.
Most solicitors should offer initial advice without charge and will be able to offer you a no win no fee agreement if suitable for your case.
For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us free on 0800 328 9545.