What Are Your Legal Rights If You Have Been Involved In An Accident

by Stephen Coppinger

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If you have been involved in an accident, you have legal rights and you can potentially bring a claim against the wrongdoing party. Stephen Coppinger Solicitor, with Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, provides some advice in respect of the process of bringing such a claim.

There are a variety of factors which result in accidents occurring. The three most common types of accidents are:

1. Road traffic accidents which normally arise out of a motor collision involving motorists and pedestrians.
2. Accidents at the workplace.
3. Accidents in public places.

In all the above type of accidents, insurance will normally be in place. Motorists are required by law to ensure their vehicle is insured. An occupier of a public place or an employer should have a public or employers liability policy in place. If parties are involved in an accident they should immediately report it to their insurers.

If an accident is reported early, it allows for proper investigation to be carried out and it is helpful in proving causation that any injuries suffered are arising from the accident. In this regard it is advisable to attend your GP or hospital on the day of the accident or as soon as possible. Under legislation, it is possible to obtain a court order that the scene of the accident is preserved as much as possible in order that accidents can be fully investigated.

Liability is then investigated by the insurance companies and they will normally make a decision then as to whether they intend to dispute fault or admit the claim. It may be necessary to involve a third party not covered under the road traffic, employers or public liability insurance policy if the wrongdoing arises out of the actions of a third party. An example of this would be if an employment accident occurred as a result of an injury arising out of a defective product such as machinery or equipment which was manufactured by a third party and not your employer but the accident occurred at the workplace.

If you have suffered an injury arising out of an accident it is advisable that you consult a solicitor. The procedure is that the solicitor will then write a letter of claim to the appropriate parties or insurance company and it’s advisable that you then attend a treating doctor. If the injury is minor in nature, you would normally attend a general practitioner but for more serious injuries it is advisable you are treated by a specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon depending on the nature of the injuries.

Your solicitor will ask your treating medical expert to complete a report which will set out the injuries suffered as a result of the accident and will often give a prognosis as to when you are likely to recover from your injuries. The prognosis will often be contingent on whether further surgery is required. The doctor will normally not be in a position to give a final prognosis until the injuries have settled post-surgery.

Under Irish Law there is a limitation period and you have two years to bring a case for personal injury to the courts. However before a case can be brought, an application has to be made to the Injuries Board. Once a claim is submitted to the Injuries Board, the limitation period stops to run and it begins to run again once it leaves the Injuries Board.

The Injuries Board normally assess a claim which can take a number of months and they make a decision as to whether they will offer an award or alternatively they will give authorisation to issue court proceedings. The Injuries Board do not accept certain claims such as psychological cases. You have the option to accept or reject the award offered. If you reject, the Injuries Board will then give you authorisation to issue court proceedings.

Depending on the severity of the injury and the level of damages sought, your Solicitor will then decide as to what the appropriate court to sue in is. The courts for bringing personal injury claims are the District, Circuit and High Court. Damages normally consist of an award for pain, suffering and loss and you can also claim for quantified damages arising out of an accident. An example of this would be loss of earnings or medical expenses.

It is also worth noting that if you are a dependent of somebody who suffered a fatality resulting out of an accident, an action can be pursued against the wrongdoer. This is known as a fatal injury claim. Dependents are normally spouses or children. A claim can be made if the dependent has suffered financial loss or mental distress as a result of the accident.

If you have suffered an accident or if you are a dependent of somebody who has died resulting from an accident, is advisable to consult a Solicitor as soon as possible as you may be entitled to damages. It is important that any accidents are reported immediately and the relevant insurance companies are notified.

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