What to do after a car accident in the UK
My own experience
The two cars on the right are the result of someone not paying attention when crossing oncoming traffic. The car above turned across me one morning on my way to work. I had no warning and little or no time to apply my brakes, slamming into him at just under fifty miles an hour.
Now, if you've ever had an accident and I don't care if it was faster or slower than mine, the actual impact - or the point just prior to - is dead scary. There's this moment when you know you can't do anything to stop what's going to happen and you just have to hope it's all going to be alright.
So it was for me. I can remember the bit where I actually hit the other car - even though I was trying my best to swerve to the left to avoid him, thinking, "He'll stop any second now. He's got to have seen me ..." but he didn't. The sound of the two cars colliding was really loud - much louder than I expected and boy am I grateful for the airbag and seatbelt.
Moments later, I sat, trying to find my glasses, breathless after having been winded as the full extent of the damage became clear.
I was hurting bad.
I'd put my right arm up to shield my face from damage and my elbow throbbed like it had been hit by a sledge hammer and my chest really hurt too after being restrained by the seat belt.
I was also in a state of some confusion. I could hardly breath and for a good minute or two, I thought I'd had it. White dots floated around in front of my eyes and it took a while to understand that it was talcum powder from the airbag.
I tried opening the door, but didn't have the strength.
Then someone tapped on my side window. It took all his strength to open the door after which, he asked if I was alright - to which I answered, "no". He then told me that the police had been informed and an ambulance called for.
Amazingly, I was able to walk to the ambulance, answer questions and sort most of the stuff that hadn't already been sorted, out. It was just as well as I was left at the side of the road like a pimple on an elephant's arse for an hour after everything had been cleared away, while I waited for Penny - my other half - to come and collect me.
Getting all the information together
I was lucky in that all the information - witness statements, insurance information, car registration numbers etc, was all got while I was getting my breath back. Frankly, I don't think I would have had the wherewithal to do it myself, so I can't express my gratitude enough to those who waited and spoke to the police on my behalf.
If you're involved in a car accident, you may well have to ensure this is done for yourself. I wasn't even capable, but that may not be an excuse if you're the one who's been clobbered. Hopefully, there'll be people around for you like there were for me.
You'll need the following:
- The driver's name and address
- Their insurance details
- The registration number of their vehicle
- The vehicle type and colour
- Names and addresses of witnesses.
Making a car accident insurance claim ...
When I returned home, I did the dutiful thing, which was ring the insurance company and inform them that I'd had an accident. They in turn put me in contact with accident claim solicitors and that's where the fun really begins.
From the moment I got home and for at least six weeks, I had round after round of telephone calls, trying to explain what happened and trying to ascertain what the process was in order to get the whole thing moving at the fastest pace possible.
I asked how long it would take and was horrified to discover that I wouldn't even get a medical assessment until eight weeks after the accident.
"So how long does this normally take?" I asked and it was only today that I discovered just how long - about thirteen months. That's five months to ascertain how long it would take alone, never mind the rest of all the jumping through hoops you'll be expected to do.
So don't get any ideas about getting a quick payout, because it's unlikely to happen.
The medical stuff
Now here's where it gets really long-winded: the medical stuff.
Depending what if any injuries you suffer, there will be an initial examination by a GP who's expert in producing reports for accident claims and he or she will recommend what further expert opinions will be necessary.
Oddly enough, even though your solicitors know when that eight week period is up, the probably won't even begin the process of getting you an appointment until after that eight week period, but don't worry, this is the easy bit.
He or she will then submit a report - which is known to be a preliminary report and will be added to by expert reports from experts in the fields the GP puts in his report.
Sadly, this can take ages. I'm still not through my reports yet as once the initial report has been submitted, the solicitors then have to find an expert nearby, who will then get you in for a consultation and in due time, submit a report about his or her findings.
These can take weeks - or rather months. They're not particularly quick to return a report and if these experts suggest further examinations by other experts, then just add another two or three months for an appointment, followed by another two or three for the report.
It's painfully slow.
What can you expect to get in compensation?
We've all heard about or read in the papers compensation claims in the States and generally, we're talking six or seven figures. That's hundreds of thousands if not millions in compensation.
Don't even think about that here.
Claims of that magnitude are not likely, which is not to say that some payouts are pretty big, just not usual. More often than not, compensation is likely to be under five thousand pounds and that's after you've waited thirteen months, during which you've seen four specialists and suffered the stress of watching and waiting due to the snail's-pace the British system works at.
The amount you are likely to get in compensation varies greatly and is dependent upon the injuries sustained. For whiplash for instance, the average payout would be in the order of £2,500, which is not a lot considering the kind of pain and discomfort this can cause.
That's average too. According to Youclaim.co.uk, claimants can expect to get between £2,000 and £7,500 depending upon how long their injuries take to go away. However, this does not take into consideration other injuries that may have been sustained in the accident.
There's one thing for sure: you're not going to get rich after a car accident, no matter how much damage may have been caused.
What have I got to go?
Since my claim in March, I have not yet even seen the specialists recommended ten weeks after my accident. Despite the third party accepting responsibility for the accident, that doesn't mean it's cut and dried.
As a result of the accident, I lost my job, I have PTSD, Whiplash and Tinnitus. Other injuries that have since cleared up are the issues with my elbow - although I'm not sure about that as the report from the X-ray have not yet been submitted to my solicitors - I have yet to see a clinical psychologist and an ENT specialist about the tinnitus.
The total payout of compensation is totally dependent upon the outcome of the specialists reports and judging by the time it's taken to get this far, I'm not going to hold my breath for the rest. As I said before, the whole system in this country is painfully slow and I often wonder whether it's worth pursuing.
Of course it is.
There's a principal involved here and although I have been required to jump through hoops - flaming hoops at that - I don't think I should just give up. I deserve something for the crap the accident caused and I intend to get it.
For everyone else out there, the process is stressful, seems to take forever and you'll never know until the end what you'll get, but considering the amount of money the insurance companies get on an annual basis, I wouldn't feel guilty for claiming for every last penny.
True, your claim for damages probably won't amount to as much as you'd like, but if the accident is not your fault, then you should get everything you're entitled to.
Nil desperandum, you will get there in the end.