Each year the Injuries Board Ireland publishes statistics in respect of the volume and category of personal injury claims submitted to them, and each year claims for compensation after a road traffic accident represent approximately three quarters of the total number of applications they process. The Road Safety Authority also produces an annual report, analysing more than twenty thousand accidents that happen on Irish roads each year. It regularly shows that over 70% of road traffic accidents involve cars, and 90% of those (2008) are attributable to driver error.
Whereas these statistics would imply that the Injuries Board Ireland is resolving over ten thousand car accident compensation claims per year, the truth of the matter is that they are probably responsible for no more than a third of this number, with the majority of compensation claims being settled by litigation or negotiation. Consequently, it is important that you are aware of the procedures you should follow after being injured in a car accident for which you were not entirely to blame – and the value of using the services of a specialised personal injury claims solicitor as early in the claiming process as possible.
Immediate Action after a Car Accident
When you are involved in a car accident, your immediate consideration should be for your health and the health of those who are travelling with you. If somebody is seriously injured, an ambulance and the Gardaí should be called or, if your injuries are such that an ambulance is not required, you should make your way to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Even if you feel that you have escaped the accident with no more than a bump, it is still recommended that you have a precautionary examination, as some injuries that can be sustained in a car accident may take time to manifest.
If the Gardaí have not attended the scene of the accident, wherever possible make an independent note of the vehicle(s) you have been in collision with, and collect the contact details of any witnesses who may have seen the accident. You should try to get the insurance details of the negligent driver who is responsible for the accident, but this may not always be possible if they have been injured or have driven off without stopping. In these days of modern mobile phones with a camera facility, it is a good idea to take some photographs of the accident scene in case you cannot remember every detail when it comes to claiming compensation for your injuries.
Before Claiming Compensation after a Car Accident
Before considering claiming compensation after your car accident, it is advisable to speak with a specialised personal injury claims solicitor. As the process for claiming compensation develops, there will be many instances where their guidance will be invaluable to you and they will ultimately ensure that you receive a fair and adequate amount of compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident. Even if you are part of the way through your application process, or have reached the later stages of claiming compensation, it may still not be too late to seek the involvement of a legal professional.
The first action whenever claiming compensation after a car accident is the completion of the Injuries Board application form. This form can be requested from the Injuries Board Ireland or submitted online. However, before attempting to complete it, you will need in your possession a copy of your medical notes, receipts supporting claims for any additional “special” damages, and a copy of the report in the Gardai´s “Road Traffic Accident Report Book”. If the Gardaí were not summoned to the accident scene, or declined to attend, it is in your best interests to report the accident to them after your health has been taken care of so that you can acquire this document.
Completing the Car Accident Compensation Application Form
Although the Injuries Board Ireland application form looks uncomplicated, it fails to take into account all possible scenarios and, as each individuals´ circumstances are different, is better submitted with an accompanying letter highlighting any after-effects you may have suffered as a result of your car accident. This might include ongoing medical costs, potential loss of earnings and the cost of the psychological trauma – when, for instance, you have lost your confidence to drive and now have to travel everywhere by public transport. There may be other elements of your injuries for which there is no appropriate field in the Injuries Board Ireland application form, and a solicitor will be able to advise you how to cover these elements, or can take on the responsibility of completing the application form himself.
Once submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland, the Board will send a copy to the negligent party, who then has 90 days in which to respond that he accepts liability for your injuries and is willing for the Injuries Board Ireland to calculate an assessment of car accident compensation. If he declines to reply, denies liability, or claims that you contributed to your own injuries by your own negligence – for example, failing to wear a seat belt – then the Injuries Board Ireland will refuse to deal with the assessment and you will be issued with an “authorisation” to pursue your claim for compensation through the courts.
The Injuries Board Ireland Assessment of Car Accident Compensation
The Injuries Board Ireland assessment of car accident compensation is based on an independent medical examination they will ask you to attend. This should confirm the diagnosis of your doctor or that of the hospital where you were initially treated for your injuries, and also inform the Injuries Board Ireland of the severity of the injuries and the length of time they will take to heal. The Injuries Board Ireland then issues an assessment of “general” damages based on amounts published in the “Book of Quantum” and any “special” damages you are claiming in respect of out-of-pocket expenses.
Their assessment is sent to both you and the defendant (and their insurance company) for you to accept. If you believe that their assessment is too low, or the insurance company consider it too high, the Injuries Board Ireland will again decline to get involved in the matter and issue you with an “authorisation” to seek litigation on the amount of compensation to be awarded through the courts. The process to this point will have taken between six and nine months, so you can see the importance of having your application form completed comprehensively.
Litigation for Car Accident Compensation
Where there is a disagreement over the amount of compensation that should be awarded, or the Injuries Board Ireland has declined an application for car accident compensation due to contributory negligence or complications which they are not prepared to resolve, your case will go before the courts to be decided on. Although this development may sound daunting, it is mostly dealt with by your solicitor and the legal department of the negligent party´s insurance company – quite often achieving a negotiated settlement before being presented in court.
Litigation will be decided in court depending on the potential size of the car accident compensation. Circuit Courts will determine claims of up to €38,092.14 –with the facility to award a higher amount of compensation if agreement can be reached between the two parties. Awards of car accident compensation above this figure are dealt with by the High Court, and even if your claim gets to this stage, your attendance in court may not always be necessary. Any compensation claims relating to children under the age of 18 have to go through the courts for approval, even when an acceptable settlement has been assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland. So the services of a solicitor are always required when children are involved.
Car Insurance Compensation and Third Party Capture
A frequent occurrence when claiming compensation after a car accident is that you will be approached by the negligent party´s insurance company with an offer of early settlement. This act is known as “third party capture” and is designed by the insurance companies to save themselves money – if you will accept a lower amount of compensation in return for receiving it faster than if you waited for the Injuries Board Ireland to make their assessment. Inasmuch as a short term lump sum may be welcome at a time when you are still traumatised from your injuries and possibly unable to work, it is worth bearing in mind that an insurance company will find your acceptance of their offer far more beneficial than you will.
Although any approach by an insurance company should be treated with caution, their willingness to negotiate does mean that your solicitor may be able to extract a far higher offer from them in a relatively short period of time. As a solicitor´s fees are usually paid for by the negligent insurance party´s insurance company, you have nothing to lose by consulting with a solicitor even when your claim for compensation after a car accident has reached this stage. As a rule, claims for car accident compensation are resolved equally between the Injuries Board Ireland, litigation and third party capture, and in all three instances, using a solicitor will ensure that you receive a fair and adequate award of car accident compensation.
A car accident can be a very traumatic event – both physically and psychologically. At a time when you may not be fully capable of going through the process of claiming compensation for your injuries, it is always advisable to use the services of a specialised personal injury claims solicitor. Although there are many solicitors who would be able to complete the Injuries Board application form and litigate on your behalf in court, a specialised personal injury claims solicitor will be more up to date with the value of current car accident compensation awards and be more familiar with the techniques used by the insurance companies to get out of paying them.
If you would like to find out more about how using the services of a specialised personal injury claims solicitor can be of benefit to you when claiming car accident compensation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our initial consultation service is completely free of charge, all calls are treated with the utmost confidentiality and there is no obligation on you to proceed with a claim once you have spoken with us. We look forward to hearing from you.
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