Every year, motor insurance companies in the UK pay out billions of pounds to victims of road traffic accidents (RTAs).
Therefore, if you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, it may well be possible to seek compensation from those responsible. In fact, even if someone else was only partly to blame, you may still be eligible to file a claim.
Starting this process can be daunting for some people. However, it doesn’t matter if someone was cycling, driving, riding a motorcycle, a passenger in a vehicle (including a Taxi or Bus), or simply a pedestrian caught up a collision, because the RTA claims process is the same for every victim.
The following guide explains what happens when going through the process of claiming compensation for a road traffic accident – from start to finish.
What Should I Do Following A Road Traffic Accident?
Getting involved in a road traffic accident can be a terrifying and confusing experience.
However, there are essential steps that you should take to gather as much information as possible. Taking the following actions will help to make the claims process easier.
- Take pictures of the accident scene and your injuries. If possible, acquire a copy of any CCTV surveillance or dashcam recording that captured the accident. Video footage and/or photos not only serve as vital evidence when making a claim, they will also help you to keep track of exactly where the accident occurred.
- Ask for contact information from any witnesses or other drivers who were at the scene.
- Note down full contact details of the driver (and car owner, if different), the vehicle model of the other party, their registration number, and the amount of damage sustained to your car/bike etc.
- Get medical treatment for your sustained injuries.
- Inform your insurance company, regardless of who is at fault.
- Keep all documents showing expenses you have incurred due to the accident. This includes any hospital bills, prescription receipts, travel expenses, and so on.
- If the accident left you unable to work, make sure to capture this in writing. Keep engaging with your employer at different stages of recovery to obtain formal letters stating your inability to resume your normal duties, the period you have been unable to work, and the amount of income lost.
- Finally, maintain a journal during recovery detailing the negative impact the accident has had on your life. For instance, note down the things you are now unable to do, how you feel about the difficulties faced, as well as the amount of pain, discomfort, and suffering brought on by your injuries.
What Does The RTA Claims Process Involve?
When considering starting a road traffic accident claim, it is wise to seek legal help. Once you have supplied the initial information gathered from the steps listed earlier, a personal injury solicitor can listen to your side of the story and determine whether or not you have a valid case for compensation.
Typically speaking, it shouldn’t cost you anything to start a personal injury claim. The reason for that is solicitors usually act on behalf of personal injury clients on a no-win-no-fee agreement.
Should you decide to proceed, your legal representative will start the process of claiming compensation, which can take 2-3 stages as described below.
Stage 1) Notifying The Defendant
The first step in the RTA claims process is to provide the party you are filing compensation against with a ‘letter before action’. In other words, you will notify the defendant of your intention to take legal action if your injury claim is not addressed.
For claims valued below £25,000, you can use the government claims portal for processing low-value personal injury claims. It provides a digital claim notification form (CNF), which captures details concerning the circumstances of your accident and sustained injuries.
The details provided should be accurate and truthful, because the defendant will issue a response based on the claims made.
In a hit & run accident where the at-fault party becomes untraceable, or in cases where the driver is uninsured, you can still use the claims portal to seek compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
If the claim in question exceeds £25,000, the entire process will be paper-based. However, the same procedures still apply.
As per pre-action protocol rules, the car insurer representing the party you are claiming compensation against should acknowledge receipt of the claims notification form (CNF) the next day after receiving it and must issue a response within 15 days. If your road traffic accident claim is made against the Motor Insurers Bureau, then you should get a reply in 30 days.
Once you initiate the RTA claims process, the defendant will respond by either:
- Admitting liability and the full compensation claim
- Alleging contributory negligence
- Denying liability entirely
Stage 2) Preparing The Settlement Pack
For the RTA claim to remain in the process, the defendant must admit liability, which could be on the grounds of causation, breach, or facts. However, the claim will still need to be substantiated.
At this point, your solicitor will request that you go through an independent medical exam to assess the full extent of your injuries, the time required to recover, and long-term impact the car accident has had on your quality of life.
Upon receiving the medical report, the next step will be to carefully assess it, to ensure there are no errors or omissions, because once submitted to the defendant’s insurer it will not be possible to challenge its factual accuracy.
After confirming that your medical report is correct, your solicitor will have 15-days to prepare a settlement pack. Essentially, this is a collection of pertinent documents that will serve as evidence for economic losses caused by your injury.
Along with the medical report, the settlement pack would include receipts for special treatment sought, what you are seeking as general damages, and whether there will be any reduction in the pay-out owed due to contributory negligence.
After receiving the settlement pack, the defendant’s vehicle insurer has 15 working days to make a counter-offer. If one is made, your solicitor would then have 20 days to consider the terms.
During negotiations, your solicitor can request for an interim payment. This may be a necessity if there is a need for further medical evidence (perhaps because the state of your injuries would require future evaluation).
However, the RTA claims process would move to the final stage (discussed below) if the defendant’s insurer denies liability, alleges fraud, or refuses to agree on the quantum (that is the compensation amount being claimed) and interim payments.
Stage 3) Court Action
If the defendant fails to respond within the pre-action protocol timescales, or when there is no mutual agreement, the claimant (or your legal representative) can file a court application.
Litigation should start within 3-years from the date of the accident, which is the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in the UK. However, an exception would apply if the RTA claim is on behalf of a minor, who can start proceedings anytime up to 3-years after their 18th birthday.
During court hearings, your solicitor will provide all supporting evidence for your claim, and a judge will determine the matter and issue their decision. If the claim’s outcome is in your favour, the court order will state the settlement amount owed and when payment is due. When minors are involved, compensation is sometimes not payable until the child reaches the age of 18.
How Long Does The RTA Claims Process Last?
Most car accident claims take between four and nine months to settle using the claims portal. However, it is not possible to predict the time it will take to receive compensation because every case is different.
The duration of the whole process depends on factors like the severity of your injuries, whether there is a denial of liability, the time it takes to get a medical assessment, and if additional treatment is required etc.
If you would like more information on how to claim compensation for a road traffic accident, you can get in touch with a personal injury solicitor here to help you get started.
Complete the form below and an experienced claims advisor will contact you, to discuss your case and offer free, no obligation legal advice.