Road Traffic Accidents -
The Do’s and Dont’s

Statistically, as a motorist, you are likely to be involved in a road traffic collision once every five years on average. So whether you are driving a car, motorcycle, lorry or some other class of vehicle, you can expect to have about 10 of these events in the average driving lifetime. Add in your time as a pedestrian or cyclist, and the number could be higher. Most of these events are minor, perhaps a ‘scrape’ in a car park or a collision that results in only property damage, but whatever the circumstances, you need to know what to do and what not to do.

Statistically, as a motorist, you are likely to be involved in a road traffic collision once every five years on average. So whether you are driving a car, motorcycle, lorry or some other class of vehicle, you can expect to have about 10 of these events in the average driving lifetime. Add in your time as a pedestrian or cyclist, and the number could be higher. Most of these events are minor, perhaps a ‘scrape’ in a car park or a collision that results in only property damage, but whatever the circumstances, you need to know what to do and what not to do.

Do

1.Make sure that you and the other people involved are safe. Your first concern will naturally be for the health and wellbeing of those around you. If an ambulance is required, make the call, do not assume someone else has. Call 112 or 999.

2.Do not move your vehicle and ask other motorists involved to keep their vehicles where they are also until the gardai direct otherwise. The crash scene is a potential crime scene and the gardai will want it to be preserved.

3.Call the gardai. They will assess the seriousness of the collision and if they feel they do not need to attend, they will advise you of this. They can also direct if the vehicles may be moved.

4.If the crashed vehicles are obstructing the road, it can be difficult to leave them where they are, potentially blocking the road and holding up traffic, nevertheless, it is your duty in law not to move them unless instructed to do so by the gardai. If that is simply not possible, make sure you get good clear photos of the locations of the vehicles before they are moved and ideally mark the position of all vehicles on the road.

5.Gather as much information as you can – you will almost certainly need it later even if you are not injured.

Registration numbers of all vehicles. This is vital as most other information can be gathered later once the registration numbers are correct.

Insurance details for all vehicles -

Names, addresses and phone numbers for all drivers

Names and contact details for any witnesses who saw the collision or came on its immediate aftermath.

Names, contact details and garda station for the attending gardai.

Photos of the position of and damage to each vehicle involved in the collision.

You can capture a lot of this information with your mobile phone – use the camera to record the vehicles, their position after the collision, any areas of damage, registration details and you may even be able to get a clear image of the insurance details from the windscreen of other cars. Be careful though, if the other motorist(s) don’t like you photographing their insurance details, don’t press the issue. Ask them politely for their insurance details and if they refuse, ensure the gardai have attended and that they have taken note of the details.

6.Do the right thing – be nice to the other parties.

Being nice, polite and showing concern for the welfare of the other persons involved in the collision will not do you any harm. Enquiring after the wellbeing of others is not an admission of liability. It may even help you as a lot of people are disinclined to sue someone who has been nice to them and are much more likely to take legal action against someone they perceive to have been rude or unkind. So do the right thing, enquire if the other persons are hurt, show your concern for them, no matter who was at fault and follow through with a call to them a day or two later to see how they are getting on – remember, many people only develop the painful symptoms of muscle damage or ‘whiplash’ a day or two after a collision. In my experience, a lot of people don’t believe it when the other party, who seemed perfectly fine at the scene of the collision, informs them a few days later that they are now stiff and sore. This is often how whiplash develops, you go to bed feeling fine but wake up unable to move without pain. Most people are decent and honest, just like you. Remember, if they are faking it, your insurance company has plenty of resources and excellent doctors to find them out!

7.Consult a Solicitor

As soon as possible after a collision, even if it is only a matter of property damage to your vehicle, you should consult your solicitor. In most cases this will not cost you anything but if there are legal issues arising from the collision, a solicitor experienced in personal injury law will be best equipped to advise you properly. That advice may be on how to recover your property damage from insurance, how to defend yourself in the event of other parties taking a claim against your insurance or how to protect your own interests or those of your passengers if you or they have been injured.

DON’T

1.Don’t admit liability at the scene of the accident. 

Many people will be surprised to learn that it is actually very often a condition of their Insurance Policy not to admit liability following an accident. This can be pointed out to the other party since it is in his/her interest that your policy is not invalidated. Even where one is blatantly at fault one should politely assist the other driver (particularly where the other party has been injured) and then exchange particulars and indicate to the other driver that you are going to report the matter to your Insurance Company.

2.If the gardai ask you to make a statement, it is better if you do this at a later stage when your thoughts are calm and collected. Ideally, you should make a statement with your solicitor, as is your right, and then present this to the gardai. Remember that you are under no obligation to make admissions of guilt or responsibility, with or without legal advice. This is something you really should seek legal advice on because damaging admissions could pave the way for a criminal prosecution for a motoring offence such as Careless Driving or Dangerous Driving.

3.Don’t leave the scene of the accident until particulars have been exchanged. 

If you encounter an irate driver who is insisting that the cars remain in their positions following the collision until the gardai are called, you should ascertain whether or not the gardai are going to attend the scene. If they are not, firmly and politely state to the other driver that you have fulfilled your obligations and that you are reporting the matter to the gardai yourself, then do so and tell the garda by phone that you propose leaving the scene or moving your vehicle and request their permission to do so. If there is an injury, then you can expect that the gardai will be attending and you must remain at the scene of the accident until the gardai arrive.

4.Don’t take the other motorist at their word.

Very often, liability will be admitted at the scene – ‘in the heat of the moment’ but in due course the other driver may change his story. If a party does admit liability then you should get them to do so in writing. Furthermore, if the other party states that he is going to move the vehicle and return to the scene, don’t believe them. To be on the safe side make sure that all details are exchanged before anyone leaves the scene and if in doubt, again, ensure that the gardai attend. 

On a final point, I have noted over recent years that increasing numbers of people are being encouraged to claim off their comprehensive insurance even where another party is responsible. Usually this is suggested by the insurer but if you take this course, even though your premium may not suffer, you will not get the full compensation for your losses such as depreciation on the damaged vehicle, contents damage or loss of use while it is being repaired or replaced. You should in the first place at least ask your solicitor whether a better outcome can be achieved by claiming against the other party’s insurance. In almost all such cases, the legal fees involved will be paid by the other party’s insurer so you really have nothing to lose by seeking legal advice in such situations.

For more information, call Cian O’Carroll Solicitors on FREEPHONE 1-800 60-70-80 or visit our website at WWW.TIPPLAW.COM