With hundreds of road traffic accidents on UK roads each day, there are thousands of compensation claims being brought every year by innocent drivers, passenger, cyclists and pedestrians as the result of another road-user’s wrongdoing. Still, bringing a road traffic accident claim can be complex, with various legal, evidential and practical hurdles that must be cleared for each and every injury claim from car accident scenarios.
The following guide for claimants looks at the various different aspects of road traffic accident claims, from what these are and who can make one, to the time limits involved.
What is a road traffic accident claim?
A road traffic accident claim refers to any claim in which an innocent road-user seeks compensation against another road-user for personal injury and any other losses sustained. This could include a whole host of different accident scenarios, from a claim by a driver against another driver responsible for the accident to a claim by a passenger against either the third party driver or even the driver of the vehicle in which they were travelling.
A claim for compensation can also be brought by motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians who have suffered injury or loss for which they are not to blame.
Who can make a road traffic accident claim?
If you have sustained an injury and/or losses as a result of an accident that was not your fault, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation against the responsible party.
In those cases where it is unclear as to who is to blame for the accident, where the proposed defendant may only be partly responsible for what has happened, this does not prevent you from pursuing a road traffic accident claim, even if you are equally responsible.
For example, if a 50/50 split on liability is agreed or decided by the courts, you will still recover 50% of the total value of your claim. Equally, if you were not wearing a seat-belt at the time of the accident, where this would have reduced the severity of any injury sustained, a deduction will usually be made of just 15% for contributory negligence.
Importantly, even if an injured party is under 18, they can bring a road traffic accident claim. This could be where, for example, they were a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone who was negligent or, alternatively, that vehicle was involved in a collision as a result of the negligent driving of another motorist. Any claim will typically be pursued against the insurers of the responsible motorist. This means that if a minor sustains an injury as the result of the negligent driving of someone they know, they can still submit a claim. It is the motor insurers who will deal with the claim and pay out any compensation to which they may be entitled. The claim will need to be issued on the claimant’s behalf by what is known as a litigation friend, typically a parent or guardian. Any compensation recovered will then be invested and paid out to the claimant once they are 18.
In all cases, where responsibility for an accident lies with an uninsured or untraceable driver, any compensation claim can be directed against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
How do you make a road traffic accident claim?
Following changes in legislation and the introduction of a new RTA (road traffic accident) small claims protocol, it is possible to submit a claim using the government’s online portal. This is designed to facilitate RTA claims for unrepresented claimants, although many claimants will still opt to pay a low-cost fixed fee for a solicitor to do this on their behalf.
However, to use the online portal, referred to as the Official Injury Claim Service (OICS), either with or without legal representation, certain strict requirements must be met.
You can only make a claim through the OICS portal if:
- you are making a personal injury claim with a potential value of up to £5,000
- the value of your claim, including your personal injury and any other protocol damages, is not worth more than £10,000 in total
- you are aged 18 or over when the road traffic accident claim is entered onto the portal
- the road traffic accident took place in either England or Wales
- the road traffic accident took place on or after 31st May 2021
- you were inside a vehicle when the accident happened, as either a driver or passenger
- you believe that someone else was responsible for the road traffic accident, either in full or in part
- you have the vehicle description and registration of the driver who allegedly caused the accident
the driver allegedly at fault was in a vehicle with a UK registration number plate.
If your claim is likely to be worth more than £5,000 — or the overall value of your claim, including personal injury and other protocol damages, is worth more than £10,000 — then the online portal is not the right place to start your road traffic accident claim and you should seek legal advice, if you have not done so already. Protocol damages refer to losses, costs and expenses relating to the accident, other than damages for injury. These could include loss of earnings if you were off work because of your injury, prescription and/or physiotherapy costs, or travel expenses to and from any medical appointments.
Importantly, protocol damages do not include the cost of vehicle repairs or the write-off value of your vehicle, or any credit hire charges while your vehicle is being repaired, as these will usually be negotiated separately by the insurers outside of the portal process. However, if you need to go to court for a judge to decide the issue of liability or because you could not reach agreement on the value of your claim, then these costs should be included at that stage. The portal will let you know what information you will need to provide if you are bringing a road traffic accident claim without the help of a solicitor.
In most cases, even if you are eligible to use the portal to bring a road traffic accident claim, it is usually best to seek specialist legal advice from a solicitor with experience in handling these types of claims. Proving who was responsible for the accident can be complex, where your solicitor can advise you on the merits of your claim and guide you through the claims process, gathering the evidence that you will need to prove negligence on the part of the proposed defendant, together with proof of your injury and losses. Your solicitor will also seek to negotiate an out-of-court settlement or take the claim to court.
What will you need to prove in a road traffic accident claim?
All road-users have a duty of care to ensure that their actions do not cause injury to other road-users, where you may have a potential claim in negligence if you can prove that the proposed defendant breached that duty, for example, by driving carelessly or recklessly.
There are essentially three key elements in any negligence claim: 1) that the defendant owed you a duty of care 2) that they breached that duty and 3) that any injury and/or loss for which you seek compensation was caused by the defendant’s breach.
If there is sufficient evidence to satisfy all three elements, you should be successful in recovering compensation for a road traffic accident claim. However, you will need sufficient proof of both the proposed defendant’s wrongdoing, if liability remains in dispute, as well as expert medical evidence and documentary proof in support of your injury and losses.
When it comes to medical evidence, your solicitor will refer you to an independent medical expert who can provide a diagnosis and prognosis for your accident-related injuries. The expert’s opinion will be based on an oral and physical assessment of you, together with a review of your medical records, providing the basis of your claim for personal injury.
In the context of any other losses, such as loss of earnings, prescription and physiotherapy costs, or travel expenses to and from any medical appointments, you will need to provide evidence of previous income, together with any receipts for out-of-pocket expenses.
How much is road traffic accident compensation?
The amount of compensation that you can recover for a road traffic accident claim will all depend on the nature of your injury and how long your symptoms last. For RTA claims issued via the online portal, where you have suffered a whiplash injury to your neck, shoulders and/or back, your injury, or any combination of whiplash injuries, will be assessed with reference to a fixed tariff regime — from £240 for a whiplash injury lasting not more than 3 months, up to £4,215 for a whiplash injury lasting up to 24 months.
In cases where you have also suffered some mild psychological symptoms as a result of the accident, such as nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disturbance or travel anxiety, the fixed tariff will include a slight increase to reflect this, taking the brackets from £260 to £4,345. There may also be exceptional circumstances, increasing your award by up to 20%.
Where your injury or combination of injuries fall outside the fixed tariff scheme, for example, if you have suffered an ongoing whiplash injury or a severe psychological injury, such as post traumatic stress disorder, the value of your claim will need to be assessed with reference to the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (JCGs). The JCGs provide a range of awards for different categories of injuries, with guidance on factors that may result in either a higher or lower award within the brackets provided. For example, for moderate soft tissue injuries lasting up to 5 years, with an increased vulnerability to further trauma or permanent nuisance-type symptoms, the compensation could be between £7,890 to £13,740.
In addition to any claim for general damages (the award for your personal injury), you will also be able to claim special damages (for any other losses). In some cases, for example, if you have been off work for several months or your ability to work has been affected, a claim for special damages could potentially run into tens of thousands of pounds.
How long does a road traffic accident claim take?
Even for a relatively straightforward road traffic accident claim, where your injury has fully resolved within a short period of time, it can take a number of months to bring this to a conclusion. There are also a number of factors involved that could prolong the process, including where liability remains in dispute and court proceedings need to be issued, or where a full recovery has not been made and further medical evidence is needed.
The quicker you instruct solicitors to investigate your claim and, if necessary initiate court proceedings on your behalf, the sooner you are likely to recover the compensation that you need to put you back in the position that you would have been in had the accident not happened. In serious cases, where any injury is having an ongoing impact on your life, and your ability to work or look after yourself, your solicitor may also be able to secure an interim payment to help ease any financial pressures that have been caused by the accident.
Fortunately, in many cases, motor insurers will seek to reduce any litigation risks by accepting liability on behalf of the insured and pay out on a road traffic accident claim as soon as possible. Still, it is important to ensure that a claim is not settled too soon, potentially at an undervalue, where the full extent of your injury is not yet known.
How long do you have to bring a road traffic accident claim?
When bringing a road traffic accident claim, you will have 3 years from the date of the accident to issue proceedings. This is the statutory time limit for most personal injury claims, although for those under the age of 18 at the date of the accident, the 3 year time limit does not being to run until they turn 18. This means that a minor will have until they turn 21 to be able to bring a claim for compensation as an injured passenger in a vehicle.
However, in all cases, it is best to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. This is because the more time that passes since the date of the accident, the harder it can be to prove who was responsible for this. In many cases, where liability remains in dispute, the claimant will be reliant on their own account, as well as eye witness accounts of any passenger(s) or anyone else who saw the accident taking place. By bringing a claim as quickly as possible, this will help to ensure that witness recollections are still fresh.
Road traffic accident claims FAQs
What can you claim for road traffic accident?
You can claim for personal injury following a road traffic accident, together with any losses arising because of this, for example, loss of earnings, prescription and physiotherapy costs, and any out of pocket expenses.
Can I claim compensation for a road accident?
You can claim compensation for a road traffic accident if you can show that another road-user breached their duty of care to not cause you injury or property damage, and that breach caused the injury and loss complained of.
How long do road traffic accident claims take?
Every road traffic accident claim is unique, where the length of time it will take to recover compensation can vary, depending on whether liability is in dispute, and the nature and severity of any injury or combination of injuries sustained.
How do I claim compensation for a car accident?
To claim compensation for injury and losses as a result of a car accident, you may be able to use the online claims portal, provided the amount of compensation you are likely to recover is less than £10,000 in total.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.