2 Bridge Street, Galway
Tel: 091 533 011
Fax: 091 533 449
Email: info@bfahy.com

What to do if you are involved in a road traffic accident

The chances are that at some stage in your life you are going to be involved in a road traffic accident. It is a very stressful situation. Doing some simple things can however avoid complications down the line.

1. Check if everyone involved in the accident is safe. Make sure that no one in your vehicle is injured. If necessary call the emergency services. If possible put on your hazard warning lights to alert other road users of a danger up ahead.

2. Do not move your vehicle or let anyone involved in the accident move their vehicles. In some cases this will not be possible, particularly, if the vehicles are blocking a busy road. In those circumstances try and take some photos of the vehicles before they are moved. It is useful to have some close up photos of the actual damage to the vehicles as well as some longer shots which show the exact location of the accident on the road. If this information is not recorded at the time there can be a dispute at a later stage as to where the accident occurred.

3. Ring the Gardai. By law you are required to report any accident to the Gardai as soon as possible. Often a traffic accident occurs and neither driver is aware of any injuries. Often the question of liability is clear and the two drivers exchange insurance details and decide at the scene that there is no need to involve the Gardai. The difficulty about this is that it maybe that the person at fault does not have insurance or their insurance may have been cancelled. Often people pay for insurance by instalments and if one of the direct debits is missed then the policy will automatically lapse. In this way somebody may have a disc that looks in order, but their policy may lapse. Similarly if there has been a lack of disclosure on the part of a driver the policy may not operate. It maybe that somebody over looked disclosing to his/her insurance company that they got a number of penalty points or that they got some relevant conviction for a driving offence. It is only really after an accident that the insurance company go to check these things out by asking for a copy of a drivers licence sometimes they find out about endorsements in that way. For all of these reasons it maybe that there is a problem with the policy. This is why it is essential that the report is made to the Gardai so that the Gardai have an opportunity to check and verify the insurance. The Gardai can only demand insurance from a driver within one month of the incident and they can ask the owner of the vehicle within three months of an incident to identify who was driving on the occasion. Accordingly it is essential that these checks are made soon after the accident. Often any problem with insurance does not come to light for some months after an accident because the insurance company are only investigating it initially.

4. No matter what happened do not admit liability at the scene of an accident. No discussion of liability should take place at the scene. Do not feel that you must get into such a discussion. If the investigating Garda wishes for you to make a statement about the circumstances of the accident, tell them you would like to consult your Solicitor before you do so.

5. Do not leave the scene until full details have been exchanged.

6. It is very important that you get the name and address of the other driver and if possible the owner. If you get the registration number of the other driver a check can be made in the Motor Tax Office and the other driver can be identified. Often people only take a phone number and name and can run in to problems with this lack of information especially if the accident has not been reported to the Gardai. Most of the time in the shock of an accident people do not think of trying to get the names and addresses of any witnesses there maybe to the accident. This is very important as if there is a dispute about liability independent evidence is essential. Once the name and address is obtained your Solicitor can follow up by asking for a statement from that witness. It is important to try and get the statement as soon as possible because memories fade with the passage of time and often a witness is vague about crucial details if they are only asked about it six months later.

7. Your own insurance policy requires you to report any accident to your own insurance company. If you do not there is a possibility that the insurance company may refuse to cover you for any claim against you in respect of that accident.

8. If there is a problem with insurance, there is a safe guard with the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland which is an organisation which does provide a scheme of compensation where a person is the victim of an uninsured road accident. However there is one very particular condition and that is that the accident must be reported by the Claimant to the Guards within two days of the event or as soon as the Claimant reasonably could. It is not sufficient that a Claimant is not aware of this obligation.

9. Often people are shook after an accident and are not aware of any injury. Often a person feels that he/she will probably be ok. Often the pain becomes more persistent on the day after the accident. It is important to get checked out by your doctor at an early stage. Difficulties can arise if there is a long delay between the date of the accident and the examination by a doctor.

For further queries please contact Benen Fahy Associates 091 533011 or email info@bfahy.com