By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
What Should I Do Following a Road Traffic Accident?
You should always make your health and the health of your passengers your top priority. If you have not already reported the road traffic accident to the Gardai, you should do so as soon as possible. If you have any doubts about the circumstances of the accident or can not remember all the details, you probably should speak to a solicitor immediately to get professional help reporting the incident to the Gardai and then dealing with any injury compensation claims.
Top Priority: Your Health
As obvious as it may seem, it should be remembered that your health and safety and that of your passengers are more important than any potential claim that you may have. If anyone has been seriously hurt an ambulance (together with the Gardai) should be called immediately.
It is of the utmost importance that you report to the casualty department of the nearest hospital or at the very least make an emergency appointment with your general practitioner, should you have been injured in a road traffic accident. Even if you feel that your injuries are not particularly serious, it is still advisable that you see a doctor. Never underestimate peace of mind. The reality is that monetary compensation is no substitute for your health and wellbeing and as any solicitor who specializes in personal injury litigation can tell you, a common remark from clients who have received large settlements after being seriously injured is that they would exchange the money in order to revert to their prior health and fitness ‘in a heartbeat’.
Further, it should be noted that your attendance at hospital or with your doctor will be recorded in your medical records which may later be used in evidence to support your claim.
Police – The Gardai
Following a road traffic accident, it is essential that you report the matter to the Gardai. If there are no obvious injuries at the time, the Gardai may well indicate that they will not be attending the scene. This is in accordance with the general policy to let the drivers of both vehicles resolve the matter themselves.
As one would expect, should the accident have been of a more serious nature and an ambulance has been called, the Gardai will attend and take statements from the various parties and witnesses (if any) and make a sketch of the accident scene. The Gardai investigation may result in a referral to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for prosecution.
If, as is often the case, the Gardai do not attend the accident scene it is advisable to visit your nearest Garda station at the earliest opportunity to request that they take details of the accident i.e. names, insurance details and registration numbers of both parties and the date, time and location of the accident itself. Each Garda station keeps a road traffic accident report book precisely for this purpose.
Road Traffic Accident Formalities
As most people are no doubt aware it is very important to exchange names, addresses and insurance details with the other driver following an accident. This is, however, not always possible as one or both parties may be very seriously injured or perhaps aggressive and confrontational following the collision. What you should do, however, in all circumstances is note the registration number of the vehicles involved. You should do this even when the other party has appeared to be co-operative, as perhaps the details given may be erroneous either due to confusion and shock following what is sometimes a frightening experience or perhaps due to deliberate malice – do not assume that the other party is as honest as you!. The the identity and insurance details of the other parties involved in an accident can usually be later verified from the vehicle registration number.
Hit and Run Road Traffic Accidents
It is not always possible to obtain details of the other driver at the scene of an accident. Of course, when serious injury occurs this will undoubtedly take precedence over the exchange of names, addresses, and insurance details. If you have been unfortunate enough to have been involved in an accident such as this, your solicitor can still pursue a claim on your behalf. Should the Gardai have attended the scene of the accident, your solicitor can very simply request and pay a small fee for the details of the other driver and a copy of the relevant Gardai report.
Alternatively, you may well have been a victim of a ‘hit and run’ incident or have later discovered that the driver of the other vehicle was uninsured at the time of the accident. In such circumstances please note that your Solicitor can submit the matter to the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, a body that exists to protect the victims of road traffic accidents when the party at fault is untraced or uninsured. The MIBI can act as the ‘insurer’ of the unknown or untraced driver and can, if appropriate, make a compensation payment to the victim.
Make Use of Technology
In modern Ireland it is fair to say that most of us own a mobile phone that should obviously be used immediately following an accident to contact the Police/Gardai and, if necessary, an ambulance. You should also utilise the camera and/or video function present on most modern cell phones to record images of both vehicles (showing damage to the cars and their road positioning) following the accident. Furthermore, it may also be useful to your road traffic accident claim if the pictures can give an accurate impression of the weather and road conditions. Obviously, the licence plate number of the other vehicles can also be recorded in this way.
Do Not Admit Liability
It is very important that you do not admit liability at the scene of the accident as it is in fact very often a condition of your Insurance Policy not to admit liability following an accident. It is perhaps best policy not to discuss liability for the accident at the scene if at all possible. Even in circumstances where it is very clear that the other party has been at fault, you should remain polite and all times assist the other driver if he or she has been injured and then exchange particulars (name, addresss, insurance details).
- It is always in your best interests to speak with a solicitor before making road traffic accident claims because of the procedures involved to ensure a claim is successful.
- Your health should be your first priority after a road traffic accident. Claims are assessed on the severity of your injuries and a doctor´s report will be required by the Injuries Board Ireland.
- Wherever possible, you should exchange names, addresses and insurance details with the other driver. Road traffic accident claims may still be capable of being processed without them due to modern technology.
- The Gardai should be made aware of your road traffic accident. Claims for compensation may hinge on what is written in their report and if they have not attended the scene you should report your accident to them.
- Road traffic accident claims are determined by facts rather than opinions. Not admitting liability is often a condition of an insurance policy, so it is best not to discuss liability for the accident with the negligent driver.
- All road traffic accident claims are unique, and it is better to discuss your personal circumstances with a solicitor on our free advice service.
It is important to note that each injury compensation case is unique. If you have recently been involved in a road traffic 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
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary 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.