It is a fact of life that there are thousands of road and car accidents in Northern Ireland every year. Those involved tell us that they find the experience traumatic and distressing. Dealing with the police, the other parties, medical personnel and insurance companies isn’t easy when you are trying to come to terms with what just happened. Clear advice should be the first thing you seek from our specialist solicitors.
What information should I gather at the scene?
If it is possible you should try to get the following information at the scene:
the registration numbers of the other vehicles
the names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance details of the other drivers involved
the location of the accident
We will be able to advise you what to do:
if the police are involved. They should be called if the accident is more than a minor collision or there are injuries.
if your vehicle is not drivable
if you have been injured
if you require a replacement vehicle / courtesy car
if the other driver is not insured
if the other driver has not stayed at the scene
What should I do if I have been injured?
Injuries sustained as a result of a road accident can range from the relatively minor to the permanent, devastating, catastrophic and even fatal. It is important that medical attention is sought as soon as possible, either at hospital (if necessary by ambulance) or in less serious cases from your own doctor. It is vitally important that you follow any medical advice you are given, take medication which is prescribed and adhere to any programme of rehabilitation and ongoing treatment recommended. If the progress of your recovery is slow, you should return to hospital or your doctor for further advice and treatment.
How we can help
It is vitally important that you talk to our specialist solicitors as soon as you believe you may be entitled to claim. There are very strict time limits. Don’t worry about taking that initial step – our lawyers will immediately put you at ease. If for any reason you are unable to visit us we are very happy to arrange a visit to your home or somewhere more convenient for you.
You should keep careful records of the losses and expenses which you incur. Typically these include:
wages which you could not earn as a result of having to take time off work
repair/replacement costs of your vehicle. If necessary, these will be paid by your own insurance company
repair/replacement costs of personal items which have been damaged
courtesy vehicle costs. Again, if necessary, these will be paid by your own insurance company
insurance policy excess
taxi fares for trips to medical appointments
How long will my claim take?
This very much depends on the approach of the other party’s insurance company and on the length of time the medical professionals need to properly determine the speed of your recovery or that your symptoms are likely to be permanent. The insurance company may take the view, having investigated the circumstances, that the other party has:
been negligent, in which case they normally, on receipt of medical evidence and information on wage loss and the other records referred to above, commence negotiations with us. Provided your symptoms do not persist, it is our experience that in these circumstances compensation will have been agreed within 1 year of you first consulting with us.
not been negligent, and is therefore not at fault. It may also allege that you are partly to blame. This is called contributory negligence. Where liability is denied, wholly or in part, Court proceedings may have to be commenced and it then becomes much more difficult to assess the duration of a claim. The Courts have put in place procedures to ensure that cases are moved forward as quickly as possible and we at MKB Law employ quality assurance systems to ensure that delays are kept to a minimum.
What is involved?
At your first our specialist solicitors take detailed instructions from you of the circumstances giving rise to your injury, your medical symptoms, and of any financial losses which you have suffered. You should have the following available for that meeting
photographic ID, such as your passport or driving licence
a utility bill, bank statement or similar document addressed to you at your home address
your National Insurance Number
your employer’s name and address
records of any financial loss you have suffered (see above).
details of any medical treatment, including any hospitals attended and the name and address of your own doctor
The specialist solicitor appointed to deal with your case will write to the other party with details of your claim. That party’s insurance company is obliged by Court Rules to investigate and furnish a full response within 3 months of our letter. It is at that stage that we can determine whether negotiations are to commence or whether Court proceedings are necessary. You will be kept fully informed throughout and will retain full control of the decision-making process.
Medical evidence will be required to substantiate your claim. If you have attended hospital or your own doctor as a result of your injuries we will ask you to complete a Form of Authority to release hospital and/or GP notes and records to us. These will be reviewed with you, and will not be shared with anyone without your specific authority. If it becomes necessary to provide copies of GP notes and records to the other party’s insurance company or to solicitors appointed by those insurers we take great care in agreeing with you which entries are not relevant to the claim and can therefore be withheld.
You may have to attend with a medical consultant who will be asked to prepare a report for us. Consultants are specialists in the fields of medicine in which they practice and are therefore best placed to fully assess your injuries and the extent of any recovery you will make. We are very selective in the Consultants we use to ensure the highest quality of reports and that our clients are treated with the respect they deserve. The advice we give all our clients who have been injured at work is that in preparation for any appointments with consultants they should from the outset keep detailed notes of the dates of any hospital/doctor’s appointments, medication prescribed or taken, symptoms, and how day-to-day activities have been affected.
If there is an issue about how an accident arose, it may be necessary for you to attend an inspection where it happened with an engineer appointed by us. Again, we are selective about the engineers we employ who each have substantial Court experience.
What costs are involved?
The legal costs of claims up to £30,000 are set out in a scale. Statistically, most cases come within that limit. There is therefore a degree of certainty in the budget which we can advise from an early stage. Whilst our clients are responsible for our fees we tend to find that in the vast majority of successful claims the scale costs and outlays (such as the cost of medical records and reports) recovered from the other party’s insurance company fully discharge our clients’ liabilities to us.
The Law Society of Northern Ireland does not permit us to act on your behalf on a “no-win no-fee” basis but we will immediately explore with you how a claim might be funded. We can make an application for legal aid on your behalf, and if you are not financially eligible we are one of only a number of practices in Northern Ireland which currently has access to after the event (“ATE”) insurers. A typical ATE policy insures all of the costs of Court proceedings except for your own Solicitor’s fees and in return the ATE insurer gets a percentage of any compensation you are awarded. ATE insurance therefore provides peace-of-mind in terms of the costs risk that a claim might involve.
No matter how your claim is to be funded you can rest assured that you will be given as accurate a budget as we can provide at the earliest opportunity. It is worth repeating that we find in the vast majority of cases our clients are not out of pocket at all because the scale costs and outlays are paid by the other party’s insurance company.