Most people probably associate the word accident with a car crash. Most of us in our driving lives will have the misfortune to have at least one accident. Fortunately the majority of these accidents do not result in serious injury to the drivers and/or the passengers involved. But if you are injured in a road traffic accident - whether it is simple bruising and whiplash, or something more serious it is worth finding out if you can claim for those injuries.
Basically a road traffic accident is treated in law in just the same way as any other type of accident. The injured party needs to establish that the accident is someone (or something) else's fault (or at least partly someone/something else's fault).
By law all drivers must have at least third party insurance cover. This means that their insurers will pick up the bill if the driver causes an accident and injury to any other party (including any passengers, whether related to the driver or not). If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, or with a driver who doesn't stop after the accident, then your claim is likely to be covered by a special agreement covered by the Motor Insurers' Bureau or the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland - an organisation set up specifically to cover such incidents.
Where there is a road traffic accident in which there are no obvious injuries at the time, telephoning the Gardai and informing them of this will more often than not result in the Gardai/Police indicating that they will not call out to the scene since there is a general policy by the Gardai/Police to let the drivers sort the matter out themselves. Where of course there is serious injury and an Ambulance is called, the Gardai will nearly always attend and may caution one or both drivers and in due course they will take statements from various people involved in the accident and forward these to the DPP to decide whether or not a prosecution will result.
Get the registration number of the other vehicle. This is perhaps the most important piece of information that is required. People have often taken insurance details from the other driver only to discover that the insurance was faulty or that there was not in fact any insurance on the vehicle at the time. This may mean that your Solicitor will become involved with the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland who deal with uninsured drivers and for them the most important piece of information is generally the registration number since it can assist them in completing their investigations with greater speed.
Take insurance details which can be readily obtained from the disc on the screen (in the Republic of Ireland). Each driver should exchange insurance details with the other.
Wherever and whenever possible behave politely but be firm in the determination to take information from the other driver. People are very often shocked following an accident and may take insufficient or false information from the other driver.
Report the accident to the Gardai/Police. Where the Gardai/Police do not attend at the scene of the accident, go to the nearest Garda/Police Station and ask the Garda/Police at the Station to take details of the accident. This will be important at a later date if the third party denies that the accident occurred or if he is uninsured. There is a book in each Garda Station which records details of road traffic accidents and you should get the Garda to take down details in your presence. Simply give your own details i.e. Name, Address, registration of car and insurance details and where possible the same details concerning the other driver.
Don't admit liability at the scene of the accident. Many people will be surprised to learn that it is actually very offen a condition of their Insurance Policy not to admit liability following an accident. This can be pointed out to the other party since it is in his/her interest that your policy is not invalidated. Even where one is blatantly at fault one should politely assist the other driver (particularly where the other party has been injured) and then exchange particulars and indicate to the other driver that you are going to report the matter to your Insurance Company. Time and time again we receive examples of drivers admitting liability at the scence of the accident and then denying it subsequently. Whereas if one admits liability at the scene of the accident it is not conclusive that one is going to be held to blame subsequently. Nevertheless it is better for all sides concerned that liability should not be admitted at the accident scene. If the Gardai are called to the scene of the accident and you are asked to explain what happened, simply explain what happened to the Garda.
Don't leave the scene of the accident until particulars have been exchanged. If one encounters an irate driver who is insisting that the cars remain in their positions following the accident until the Gardai are called, one should be cautious here and ascertain whether or not the Gardai are going to be called out or not. If they are not, firmly and politely state to the other driver that you have fulfilled your obligations and that you are reporting the matter to the Gardai yourself. If there is an injury and the Gardai are being called you should remain at the scene of the accident until the Gardai arrive.
Don't take literally what the other driver states to you at the scene of the accident. Very often for example liability will be admitted but in due course the other driver may change his story and this can complicate matters. If a party does admit liability then you should get him to do so in writing. Furthermore, if the other party states that he is going to return to the scene of the accident don't necessarily believe him since he may change his mind once he has left the accident location. To be on the safe side make sure that all details are exchanged before anyone leaves the scene.
In the majority of accidents where there are no injuries or only minor injuries and where the Gardai do not concern themselves with attending at the scene of the accident, you should be sure to at least get the registration number of the other car and bring this information to your Solicitor. In addition your Solicitor will find the following information helpful:
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