National Road Victim month is held annually in August to remember people that have been killed or injured on our roads. Road accidents remain the leading cause of death for young people in the UK aged between 5 and 29 and globally, more than 1.3m people die in road accidents every year.
The consequence of these accidents can range from modest injuries resolving within a period of a few months to permanent disfigurement and disability or even multiple fatalities. Few people can say they know no one who has been impacted by a road traffic accident, and the consequences of these often tragic events can be felt for many years after the injuries are sustained.
The law in Scotland intends to assist and compensate those individuals who suffer from the effects of road traffic accidents through no fault of their own. If you were unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic accident then you may be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation relating to the injuries you sustained or the damage to property caused as a result of the events. In order to do that, it must be established that the accident was not caused by you and that you have suffered losses as a result of being involved.
What is the Law?
The law on road traffic accidents is relatively straightforward. Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:-
"If owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road, injury or damage is caused to a third party…then the drivers involved must -
- Exchange names and addresses of the drivers of the vehicles;
- Exchange names and addresses of the owners of the vehicles;
- Exchange details of registration marks and
- In the case of injury, produce a valid certificate of insurance"
If the law is not complied with, then drivers must report it at a police station or to a police officer and must do it as soon a is reasonably practicable and within 24 hours of the accident itself.
Uninsured or Unidentified Drivers
Most drivers would believe that the requirement to stop and provide personal details after an accident is a matter of common sense. However, there are clearly circumstances in which a driver may not stop to provide their details, either because they were unaware of causing the accident or because they were unwilling to disclose their details. In cases where the driver of a vehicle who caused or materially contributed to an accident cannot be identified, an organisation called the Motor Insurers Bureau effectively step into the shoes of the unidentified driver. This is also the case where the driver of the vehicle has been identified but where insurance is not in place to meet the costs of any successful claim arising from the accident. Where a claim would usually be pursued against the insurer of the driver at fault, and that is not possible, the Motor Insurers Bureau ("MIB") will meet the cost of any successful compensation claim relating to the liability of the unidentified or uninsured driver.
Fatalities arising from Road Traffic Accidents
In some cases, the losses and injuries arising from a road traffic accident can be limited to modest vehicle damage and moderate whiplash injury. In other cases, there are multiple fatalities and those cases are treated no differently to any other claim for compensation arising from a wrongful death. If an individual has died as a result of the road traffic accident, and liability for the accident itself rests with another party, then the family of the deceased person is entitled to make a claim for the loss of the relationship they would have otherwise enjoyed with their family member. Those awards of compensation can potentially be significant and will depend on the closeness of the relationship between those pursuing a Court action and their deceased family member. There are also only specific categories of relatives entitled to claim for compensation for a deceased family member and those are limited to (i) spouses, (ii) siblings or step-siblings, (iii) grandparents or step-grandparents, (iv) parents or step-parents, (v) grandchildren or step-grandchildren. In the cases of step-relatives, the Court must be persuaded that the relationship is sufficiently close that the individuals were treated as though they were blood relatives.
What to do after a Road Traffic Accident
For anyone involved in a road traffic accident, the primary concern will always be to identify and assist any injured persons at the scene. The law then requires parties to exchange details where possible and to report the accident to the police within a maximum period of 24 hours following the incident if the other driver did not stop at the scene, or provide their details. Of course, reporting the accident to the Police should be done immediately, at the scene, where the accident is particularly serious or where hazards remain on the road following the accident.
If there is a potential claim for compensation arising from the accident, the appropriate first step will be to make contact with a solicitor and to establish whether there are prospects of proving that the accident was caused by the other party. If that argument is successful, the focus will then be to quantify the losses suffered as a result. That can often be a complex process, particularly where the injuries are serious in nature.
No award of compensation, no matter the value, can ever make up for the loss of a family member or for serious injury sustained as a result of a tragic accident. However, it is recognised that financial assistance can help people build a safety net for their family, the lives of whom may have been significantly and permanently impacted by the events in question.
If you or a family member require advice on a road traffic accident you have been involved in, the first step is to make contact with a solicitor specialising in personal injury claims. To seek specific, tailored information on the circumstances of your own potential claim, please click here to contact the Morton Fraser Personal Injury Team, who will be happy to assist further.
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