Help! I’ve never been in a car accident before, what should I do?
Is everyone ok?
The first priority is the safety of everyone involved in the motor vehicle accident. Check on your passengers, the other driver(s) & their passengers. If necessary, call an ambulance. If in doubt, always seek medical advice for anyone who needs it, including yourself. It’s better to be safe than sorry as sometimes shock and adrenaline can conceal what later develops into significant injuries.
Once everyone requiring medical attention has been looked after the next step is to gather important information:-
• The registration number of each of the other vehicles involved; – this is the single most important detail as unfortunately sometimes people take insurance details in good faith from the other driver only to find out later on that the insurance disc was invalid and there was no insurance on the vehicle. The vehicle’s owner can be traced via the registration number. It is also a vital piece of information for the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) to assist them in completing their investigations if it becomes necessary for your solicitor to involve the MIBI ( e.g. a hit & run or uninsured driver.
• Each driver’s insurance details including the name of the insurance company, the policy number and the renewal date. These details can be obtained from the insurance disc displayed on the vehicle’s windscreen;
• Names, addresses and phone numbers of each of the other drivers and also of any witnesses or any other people who came to your assistance (unfortunately, people often forget to ask witnesses for their names & phone numbers)
• In turn you must share your contact details & insurance details with the other driver(s);
• If you have a camera on your mobile & if it is safe for you to do so, you should take plenty photos of the vehicles from various angles and distances before they have to be moved. If possible, you should take some photos from a distance with a helpful marker such as a lamp post, building or sign visible in the photo. These types of photos often help show where the vehicles actually ended up and may identify debris on the road and skid marks, etc. depending on the quality of your camera.
Calling the Gardaí:-
The Gardaí should be called but, unless there are apparent serious injuries, often the Gardai will not attend the scene and will leave the matter to civil remedy i.e. for each party’s insurance company to sort out the issues. If the Gardaí tell you they won’t be attending the accident locus, make a note of the name of the Garda and the Garda Station you phoned. At the earliest opportunity and while matters are still fresh in your mind, you should attend your local Garda Station and report the accident fully and again take a note of the name of the Garda you deal with as this is important if the other driver later turns out to be uninsured.
Moving the vehicles:-
Ideally, the vehicles should not be moved until the Gardaí attend the scene and can take a sketch of the accident and note details of the location of each vehicle. However, safety is paramount and it may be that it is safer for all involved and for other road users that the vehicles be moved. If possible & it is safe to do so, you should take as many photos as you can before you move the vehicles.
Do not admit liability:-
Do not admit liability for the accident, even if you believe you may have been at fault. This is because it is often a condition of your insurance policy that you should not accept liability following an accident. The best practice is to just deal politely and calmly with the other driver in exchanging insurance & contact details and leave the matter of liability to a later time.
Likewise, just because the other driver accepts liability at the scene or says sorry does not mean that you can rely on that admission as a guarantee that liability will be accepted by that person’s insurance company. Sometimes when a person has had time to think about the accident and to consider the circumstances, they may change their mind about where the blame lies for the accident. This is not necessarily due to any malice on the part of that person but rather they have reconsidered the matter in the cold light of day and away from the shock and emotion which hit them straight after the accident.
Uninsured drivers/Hit and run:-
Every driver in this country is legally obliged to have third party insurance cover at a minimum. This means that if a driver causes an accident which results in someone being injured or damage being done to someone’s property there is an insurance policy to cover the situation. However, if the other driver turns out not to be insured or they leave the scene of the accident in a hit and run, your claim may be dealt with by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI), subject to certain conditions.
Contacting an experienced solicitor:-
You should contact a solicitor who is experienced in handling road traffic claims as soon as possible to assist you in dealing with the fall out of the accident. Please bear in mind you don’t have any automatic entitlement to be compensated just because you’ve been injured in an accident*. The law treats road traffic accidents exactly the same way as any other accident which means that if you are the injured party you must prove that the accident was caused by someone or something else.
An experienced solicitor will:-
• Speak to the Gardai, the other driver’s insurance company and any witnesses;
• arrange for an engineer to examine the locus of the accident as soon as possible, if necessary, to take photographs, measurements, etc to ensure the best evidence is available if it transpires that the other driver is disputing liability;
• Arrange for a motor assessor to independently examine your vehicle, if necessary;
• Write to the other driver formally notifying him/her of your claim;
• Help you complete the accident report form for your own insurance company;
• Consider all of the evidence & the legal issues that arise & will advise you fully about all of this to ensure a successful outcome to your case;
• If you subsequently face a criminal prosecution arising out of the Garda investigation of the accident, defend the case on your behalf in Court.
At Douglas Law Solicitors we have specialist personal injury solicitors who will advise & guide you in relation to a possible claim arising out of the accident*. We have a proven track record in successfully resolving our clients claims*.
If you have specific questions or require advice about a road traffic accident you have been involved in, you can email our specialist personal injury solicitors Gráinne O’Donovan on email@example.com or Aoife McCarthy on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a consultation or contact us by telephone on 021 4897254.
We also offer video consultations via Skype or Zoom.
For more information please click the link here.
*In contentious business a solicitor may not charge fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award of settlement.