Road Traffic Accidents
Road Traffic Accidents causing injury to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike are an unfortunate fact of modern life. The consequence of a moment’s lack of concentration can be inconvenience, out of pocket expense or at worst personal injury or death.
Lawson Lewis Blakers are able to provide you with expert and effective representation if you have unfortunately suffered an injury in a road accident.
It is a basic legal principle that all road users owe a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of others.
To succeed in establishing liability you must therefore prove (on the balance of probability) that the other party has broken their duty of care. It can be helpful to be able to show, for example:
- Breach of the Highway Code – for example, driving at excessive speed, failing to accord priority at junctions and so one will be helpful
- Criminal Convictions – the burden of proof in criminal courts is higher than in civil courts and so demonstrating that the other party has been convicted of, for example, careless driving is often a good way of establishing liability.
It is of course a criminal offence for the driver of a motor vehicle not to have insurance providing cover against claims arising from injuries arising from a motor accident. For claims involving drivers who are either uninsured or untraced there is a statutory compensation scheme through the Motor Insurer’s Bureau – see separate briefing note.
The process of determining the amount of compensation you may be entitled is known by lawyers as the assessing “quantum of damages”.
In order to be claimed any loss it must be reasonably foreseeable and directly caused by the accident, so that for example:-
- A claim for compensation for an injury may be reduced if there is a pre-existing medical condition. A good example is the passenger of a motor car who suffers a whiplash neck injury – but had an existing back impairment.
- A claim for compensation may be reduced by a percentage if a court concludes that the claimant is partially responsible. An example might be the passenger of a motor car who sustained injuries in a motor accident – but those injuries are made worse by their own failure to wear a seat belt.
The aware of compensation is divided into categories:-
SPECIAL DAMANGES – these are losses which can be precisely calculated. This element is designed to put the claimant into the same position financially as if the accident never happened and so, for example will include:-
- Costs of items damaged in the accident – for example damage to a motor vehicle
- Costs of medical treatment incurred privately following an accident, for example physiotherapy, prescriptions etc.
- Loss of earnings (net)
- In serious cases costs of domestic care, dis-ability aids, equipment etc.
GENERAL DAMAGES – This is compensation for losses which by definition must be estimated. Heads of Claim include compensation for pain, loss of amenity (the inability to do things which one could do before the accident – perhaps playing sports) and in the case of serious accidents awards designed to compensate for dis-advantage on the labour market.
The assessment of compensation is an art, not a science. A detailed understanding of the victims injuries and a good understanding of the impact which they have had upon his/her ability to lead their life fully and normally is vital.
Consideration must be given to the likely duration of injury and whether there will be any long-term consequences as a result, for example, recurrence of symptoms or risk of future de-generation of injuries.
This information is then matched against previously decided case law to achieve a comparison.
STATE BENEFITS – Recoupment It is sometimes the case that following an accident the victim may face a period of dependence upon state benefits. Certain benefits are known as “recoverable” – for example, Income Support, Statutory Sick Pay and Job Seekers Allowance. This means that the total sum of certain benefits paid to the victim can be deducted (and re-paid to the State) from certain elements of the claim – for example that relating to loss of earnings.
LIMITATION - A claim for compensation for an injury must usually be issued at court within three years from the date on which the accident occurred. However, even here care is need so that, for example, accidents on aeroplanes have a shorter limitation period. Failure to issue proceedings or settle a claim within the required time scale will in likelihood mean that the claim will fail completely. This is a complicated area of law. It is advisable to avoid delay. In limited circumstances a claim may sometimes be bought outside the time limit – but there must be exceptional circumstances.
EVIDENCE – It is vital to the success and maximisation of your claim that the necessary evidence to support your case is gathered as quickly and effectively as possible. We are able to advise you fully as to the evidence required and to gather this on your behalf. Evidence will include:-
- Reports from the Police
- Receipts for your out of pocket expenses
- Reports from medical professionals – doctors with relevant expertise, physiotherapists etc.
- Witness statements – dealing with those who saw the accident if liability is in issue – or otherwise dealing with loss of amenity.
- Where relevant, reports dealing with loss of earnings (or earning capacity) or the costs of continuing care – in cases of severe injury.
LEGAL COSTS – In cases where you recover compensation for personal injury in excess of £1,000 you will be able to recover a contribution towards your legal costs.
We are able to work on a “no win – no fee” basis. We will undertake a preliminary assessment of your claim – free. If you decide to instruct us pursue your claim you will keep 100% of your compensation.