Road Traffic Accients-Keeping your eye on the road is no longer enough

Legal

Traffic accidents

An accident is defined as a traffic accident if it occurs on a road or in a place to which the public have access. This can include footpaths and bridleways.


If you are injured in a road traffic accident – whether it is simple bruising and whiplash, or something more serious it is worth finding out if you can claim for those injuries


Who is responsible for a traffic accident

It may be obvious that someone caused the accident and there will be no dispute about liability. However, there will be cases where it is not obvious, or where the extent of liability is difficult to work out. For example, as a general rule, the driver of a vehicle which runs into the back of another vehicle will be held liable for the accident. This is the case even if the car in front has braked sharply or unexpectedly, because drivers are required to drive a safe distance behind other vehicles. However, there may be circumstances when this does not apply, and if liability is disputed, legal advice will be necessary.


What must a driver involved in a traffic accident do

1. STOP: A driver involved in a traffic accident should stop whether or not the accident was their fault if:-


  • anyone, other than themselves, is injured; or
  • another vehicle, or someone else’s property, is damaged; or
  • an animal in another vehicle or running across the road is injured; or
  • a bollard, street lamp or other item of street furniture is damaged.

2. Gather Information: Get the following details:


  • Number Plate
  • Insurance details
  • Name and Address of other party

3. Report the accident to the Gardai within 24 hours if possible.


4. Get witness details


  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone Number

5. Take photographs If you have a mobile telephone with a camera or a camera in your vehicle.


6. Attend your Doc


tor or local Accident and Emergency Department


What a Driver involved in an accident should not do

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.


2. Don’t leave the scene of the accident until you have exchanged details with the other party. If someone has been injured you should remain at the accident scene until the Gardai arrive.


Payment for medical treatment

If someone else is responsible for your accident you will be able to claim all Medical Expenses back from the Insurance Company.


Witnesses

It is important to obtain evidence from independent witnesses about what happened at an accident. If someone who is present at an accident refuses to act as a witness, it is advisable to ask the police if the witness has been called to give a witness statement. If this is not possible, it is very difficult to do anything, unless the name and address of the witness are known. With this information they can be called as a witness in any civil court proceedings that might take place.


Witnesses should write down their evidence and keep their original notes, as it may be some time before any claims are settled or court proceedings are heard. Whatever witnesses may say, the people involved in the accident should make their own written accounts of what happened, including making sketches and taking photographs as soon as possible and keeping their original notes.


Traffic accidents related to work

An employee who has a traffic accident whilst travelling for work (or possibly on the way to work) should bear in mind the following points:-


  • if the vehicle is insured by the employer, the employee will be covered by the employer’s vehicle insurance, whether or not they were responsible for the accident
  • if the employee is an injured pedestrian or cyclist, the employer will normally be liable in the same way as for any industrial injury, unless the employee clearly acted negligently

Bicycles

If someone has been in an accident involving a bicycle, they should be aware that cyclists do not have to be insured for damage to the bicycle, any other vehicle or for personal injury. However, the cyclist may be covered under another insurance policy, for example, their home contents policy. If the accident happened on the way to or from work, or whilst at work, the person who had the accident may be covered by their employer’s insurance or may be able to obtain advice and assistance from a trade union.


If the cyclist has inadeq


uate insurance it will probably be easier to claim on the insurance of the person who had the accident and let the insurance company take action against anyone who is liable.


If none of these is possible, the cyclist could be sued in court for compensation.


Stationary or fixed objects

If someone hits a stationary object, either on the road itself or alongside the road, they should consider the following:-


  • was the object adequately marked or lit to enable the driver to see it clearly and in time to avoid it, for example, an unlit car, skip or roadworks. If not, it will be necessary to find out who was responsible for failing to do so. For example, if the object was a parked car, the responsible person is the owner. If the object was roadworks, then whoever is carrying out the roadworks is responsible, for example, the local authority, a gas, water or electricity company, or contractors doing the work on their behalf
  • had the object been left on the road either unlawfully or in an unsafe way, for example, a car parked on a blind corner. If so, the owner of the object or vehicle may be liable
  • have there been any similar accidents caused by the object. If so, this is evidence that the object had contributed to the accident.

The condition of the road surface

An accident may be caused by the condition of the road surface, for example, by pot holes, ice, mud or leaves. Adequate warning may not have been given of a problem with the road surface, for example:-


  • the local authority (County or Town Council)  may have failed to respond reasonably to a problem with the road surface. If so, they may be liable for any accident caused
  • individuals or firms, for example, farmers or contractors may have left mud or grease on the road surface for an unreasonable period of time without adequate warnings. If so, they may be liable for any accident caused
  • a contractor who has failed to reinstate the road surface properly after carrying out works.

Drivers from abroad

If an accident happens in Ireland and the driver is from abroad their obligations are the same as if the driver came from Ireland – see under heading .


It may be difficult to get compensation for any damage or injuries. You could try contacting the Motor Insurers Bureau Ireland. They can obtain details of the driver and their insurance company if the vehicle’s registration number can be provided and the driver comes from a country participating in the green card scheme. If the driver was not insured, or the insurance company does not have an agent in Ireland, the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland will take up the case. If the insurance company does have an agent in Ireland, you will be advised to contact them.


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