Car crashes and serious injuries – seeking legal support
Following the right legal steps after being injured in a car crash can help you to achieve the best possible outcome, says Hugh Potter, Senior Partner at Potter Rees Dolan Serious Injury Solicitors.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a car crash, you should consider seeking legal advice to pursue a claim for compensation. Interim payments, or payments on account of the final award of compensation, will be available in many cases, and are useful to replace lost income or pay for things you might need while injured.
It’s vital to make sure you speak to a specialist solicitor with proven experience and qualifications in dealing with cases like yours, rather than a “claims handler”. The best way to do this is to compare websites and seek recommendations – after all, this is an important process, and you want to make sure you are working with someone you can trust.
However, it’s also vital not to wait too long, and to seek advice from a solicitor as soon as you can. Although you will usually have up to three years to commence court proceedings, evidence trails tend to go ‘cold’ very quickly – CCTV footage, for example, is quite often erased within a few weeks.
What happens next depends upon the circumstances, but usually proceeds as follows:
- Your solicitor will investigate the causes of your crash to determine who was at fault, based on police reports, witness interviews and reconstructions of the incident. Where it is clear that a third party was at least partially to blame for your injuries, interim payments should be available to you.
- The extent of your injuries and the likely prognosis will be investigated by your legal team. This means your medical records are likely to be accessed, allowing medical evidence of your injuries to be reviewed.
- Your solicitor will look into obtaining therapy, care and support for you, which often takes place in private.
- Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, you will discuss the possibility of returning to work with your legal representatives
- Your solicitor will provide information and guidance about claiming welfare benefits. This can be a potentially complex process, particularly for those with serious injuries, and it is important to seek professional advice.
- Your solicitor will provide an idea of how much compensation you might receive. However, it may be some time before a final estimate can be given, especially if your future needs or losses are not immediately clear.
- If the incident involved an unidentified hit-and-run driver, compensation will still be available, but is likely to be assessed by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. If the quotes provided appear too low, your solicitor can advise you on this.
- Broadly, the amount of compensation you are owed will either be agreed out of court, or awarded through a court ruling. You will receive compensation for your past and future losses and any expenses caused by your injuries, as well as a lump sum to reflect the injuries and the effect on your life. Sometimes, the payout may come in the form of a smaller lump sum combined with annual inflation-proofed payments throughout your lifetime; you will generally receive advice from your lawyer on which would be better for your particular circumstances.
- In general, if you are awarded compensation, most or all of your legal costs – such as solicitors’ charges, barristers’ fees, court expenses and doctors’ fees – will be paid in addition. However, in some instances you may need to personally pay a so-called success fee to your solicitor – as such, it is essential to make sure you ask your legal team to explain how all of their costs work in advance.
Road traffic collisions can happen at almost any time, and it’s impossible for even the most cautious driver to avoid every surprise they encounter on the road. That’s why it’s good to know that even if the worst does happen, there are ways for you to get the support and professional advice you need.
Brake publishes information and advice for bereaved families and friends following a death on the road. This guidance contains information on what happens after a crash, practical issues, investigations and criminal charges, court cases, claiming compensation, and useful organisations. Click here to find out more.