By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

According to statistics released by the Injuries Board, more than three-quarters of all applications for an assessment of personal injury compensation in Ireland relate to car accident claims. This is not such an astounding statistic when you consider that, in Ireland, car ownership is high and public transport services are limited; meaning that the majority of people will travel in a car – either as driver or a passenger – almost every day.

However, when you consider that the Injuries Board receives more than ten thousand applications for assessment each year, this would equate to over twenty car accident injury compensation claims every day – or nearly one request for an assessment of compensation for car accident injuries every hour.

Consequently, if you have been injured in a car accident for which you were not to blame, it is essential that you receive professional legal advice which applies to your personal situation in order that you receive your maximum entitlement to car accident compensation and avoid becoming just another Injuries Board statistic.

What to do After a Car Accident

The following is a basic checklist of what you should do after a car accident in Ireland. You may have completed many of these procedures already, but there may have been some you overlooked or might have been unable to do at the time of your accident due to the severity of your injury.

Your Personal Health and Safety is the Highest Priority

If you have been hurt in a car accident your health is much more important than any car accident injury compensation claims you might have. If you or anyone else has been badly hurt, an ambulance (and the Gardai) should have been summoned without delay.

If your injuries are less serious, you should still have attended the Accident and Emergency department of your nearest hospital or made an emergency appointment with your GP. Even if following the car accident you did not feel that your injuries were particularly serious, you should still have sought professional medical attention – and not only for the sake of your health.

Should there be an unjustifiable gap between the date of your car accident and the date on which your injuries were recorded in your medical history, your car accident compensation claim could be contested on the grounds that you injuries were not sufficiently serious to warrant medical attention at the time of the car accident and that they may have been caused by some other event.

Reporting to the Gardaí

It is essential that any car accident in which you sustained an injury is reported to the Gardaí as soon as practically possible. If it appeared that no one had been injured at the time, the Gardai might have indicated that they were not going to be attending the scene; however the call to the Gardai will have been noted and may later be referred to by your solicitor in support of your claim for car accident compensation.

Naturally, should the car accident have been a serious one and an ambulance called, the Gardaí would have attended the scene. Statements will have been taken from the various parties and witnesses, and an attending Garda would have make a sketch of the accident location. The Gardaí may decide after consideration to refer the matter to the DPP for prosecution.

If the Gardaí did not attend the accident scene, it is advisable to visit your local Garda station to give details of the car accident. Every Garda station keeps a road traffic accident report book and you should enter the names of those involved in the car accident together with their insurance details and the registration numbers of the vehicles involved. Include the date, time and location of the accident and ensure that you keep a copy of this report to provide to your solicitor.

Complete the Correct Formalities

It is important for drivers to exchange names, addresses and insurance details with each other driver following a car accident but you should not have put yourself at greater risk in order to do so. Car accident claims may be more complicated without this information but, as you will see below, the lack of contact and insurance details can be overcome using modern technology.

Completing the correct formalities may not have been possible if other parties involved in the car accident were injured or became aggressive and confrontational following the incident. In this event, it would have been advisable to make an independent record of the registration numbers of the vehicles involved in the car accident, and not to rely on other drivers providing you with this information as it may be incorrect due to confusion and shock following a frightening experience – or perhaps due to deliberate malice.

Most people in Ireland carry mobile phones and, by using the camera facility on the phone, you will might have been able to take images of the accident scene, the vehicle registration numbers and the road conditions – all of which may help support your claim for car accident compensation should it not be possible to process your claim through the Injuries Board Ireland.

Eligibility to Claim Car Accident Compensation

You will be eligible to claim car accident compensation provided it can be shown that another road user – or the authority responsible for maintaining the roads in a safe condition – was negligent in their actions, or lack of action, and that their carelessness was the reason for you sustaining an injury.

Car accident claims can also be made against a car driver if he or she has been responsible for injuring a cyclist or pedestrian in a car accident or if a passenger travelling in a car has been injured due to the driver´s lack of care. These scenarios have their own articles dedicated to them which can be accessed via the menu on the left of this page.

Car Accident Claims against an Unknown Driver

If you have sustained an injury in a car accident, and the driver who has caused the accident has left the scene, claims for car accident injuries can be made against the Motor Insurers´ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) – a body established by motor insurance companies to provide compensation for injured parties when the driver of a vehicle which has caused an accident is either unknown or uninsured.

Before car accident claims against an unknown driver can be made, it is important that your accident is reported to the Gardai in order that they can attempt to trace the owner of the vehicle using technology such as roadside cameras and CCTV. The MIBI are unlikely to entertain any claims for car accident injuries unless it can be shown that every effort has been made to trace the negligent driver responsible for the car accident.

Car Accident Injury Claims against the Council

In some circumstances your injuries may have been sustained in an accident which was not the fault of another road user but the authority who has failed in their responsibility for maintaining the roads in a safe condition. In most cases this would be the local council, but utility companies and even private homeowners may be liable for creating a hazard on the roads and against whom claims for car accident injuries should be made.

It is also worth highlighting that a council´s “duty of care” to maintain the roads in a safe condition is not absolute. Therefore, if a hazard in the road that caused your car accident had suddenly appeared, which the council could not have “reasonably” been expected to repair in the length of time available to them, you might not be able to make car accident injury claims at all.

Consequently, if you have sustained an injury in a car accident due to the condition of the road, you should always seek professional legal advice about your rights to make car accident injury claims against the council – or other entity – from an experienced solicitor as soon as possible after receiving medical treatment for your injuries.

How to Claim Compensation for a Car Accident Injury

Claims for compensation for a car accident injury are not always resolved by the Injuries Board Ireland – although most solicitors will recommended that an application for assessment is submitted to them. Many claims for compensation for injuries in a car accident are resolved between a solicitor representing the injured party and the insurance company of the negligent driver

As negotiated settlements can be the quickest and simplest way of settling car accident claims for the maximum entitlement of compensation, most solicitors will suggest this course of action. The application for assessment to the Injuries Board is in order to obtain an “Authorisation” to pursue your claim through court action should liability be denied by the negligent driver´s insurance company or a satisfactory negotiated settlement of car accident compensation cannot be negotiated.

How Much Compensation for Car Accident Injuries Will I Get?

How much compensation for car accident injuries you are entitled to receive will be calculated on the severity and extent of your injuries in relation to your age, general state of health prior to your accident and, in some cases, your sex. You will also be able to claim car accident compensation for any quantifiable psychological trauma you have experienced due to the nature of the car accident and the effect that your physical and psychological injuries have on your quality of life.

In addition to the “general” damages above, you will be able to recover any lost income or financial costs which are directly attributable to the car accident. These could include the cost of medical care, alternate travel arrangements if you are unable to drive because of your injuries or – in more catastrophic car accident claims – the costs of re modelling your home to accommodate wheelchair access and a lifetime of lost earning potential.

One element which may restrict how much compensation for car accident injuries you receive is if you contributed to the cause of the accident or severity of your injuries by your own lack of care. If, for example, you were not wearing a seat belt when your car accident occurred or failed to seek medical attention at the first possible opportunity and an avoidable deterioration of your injury resulted, you will be attributed with a percentage responsibility. This percentage will be reduced from your settlement of car accident compensation to reflect your contributory negligence.

Car Accident Injury Claims and Insurance Companies

One further scenario in which you may not receive your full entitlement to car accident compensation is if you accept a direct offer of compensation from the negligent party´s insurance company without first having the offer assessed by an experienced personal injury solicitor. When there is no dispute over liability, insurance companies frequently make direct approaches to injury victims when they are at their most vulnerable in an attempt to elicit a settlement of car accident compensation in their favour.

If you inadvertently accept an insurance company´s offer of car accident compensation, and it subsequently proves to be inadequate to pay for medical treatment or support your family while you are unable to work, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more. By seeking car accident claims advice from a solicitor at the first practical opportunity, you can avoid the potentially harmful consequences of this scenario.

Car Accident Claims Advice

Inasmuch as all the information above recommends speaking to a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity after you have been injured in a car accident for which you were not entirely at fault, it is never too late to seek car accident claims advice. Most solicitors will offer a free impartial assessment of your car accident claim when you first speak with them, and in many cases you will be able to recover any costs associated with car accident claims as part of your car accident settlement.

A car accident is often a traumatic event and you might be saved from adding to that trauma by engaging the services of a solicitor to pursue car accident claims on your behalf. It makes sense to discuss the circumstances of your accident with a legal professional and take advantage of any free car accident claims advice that is available before deciding whether you have a claim for car accident injuries which is worth your while to pursue and the best way of handling your claim.

Summary

  • Car accident injury claims are amongst the most common personal injury claims in Ireland. This is mostly due to a high level of car ownership and limited public transport.
  • For car accident injury claims to be successful, you have to show that you have sustained an injury due to the negligence or lack of care of another road user or entity responsible for keeping the roads in a safe condition.
  • However, your first priority should be your health, and initiating car accident injury compensation claims should be left until you have received appropriate medical attention.
  • Wherever feasible, you should collect the name, address and insurance details of the negligent driver, but even if you do not know their identity,  technology can assist with car accident injury claims.
  • Compensation for car accident injuries is determined according to a number of factors and you should discuss how much compensation for a car accident injury you might be entitled to receive with a solicitor on our free legal advice telephone service.

It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have recently been involved in a car accident and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.

Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell

Eoin P. Campbell on Whiplash Injury Claims About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.