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Personal injury

How to prove fault after a road traffic collision

Read our expert insight on what you need to do if you're injured in a road traffic accident through no fault of your own.

06 October 2015

Always be prepared

The motto "always be prepared" should be heeded if you are unfortunately involved in a road traffic collision that is not your fault.

It's important to be ready for the aftermath of a road traffic accident, even if the responsibility seemed clear initially. When the insurance company examines the issue of fault, things can become more complicated than they initially appeared.

If you're able to, you must therefore be prepared to gather as much detail and evidence as possible.

Gather evidence

  • Record the other driver’s details – name, full contact details, vehicle make/model/colour and registration. It's an offence for the other driver to refuse to exchange details following a collision, and if they do refuse, there might be a risk they are not insured, so call the police.
  • Do a sketch of the incident scene – include road markings and signs, noting the position of vehicles before, during and after the collision. If you can take photos then do so.
  • Take full contact details of all witnesses before they leave the scene.
  • Take a description of the other driver and confirm who the occupants were. Every passenger is a potential witness, either for or against you.
  • Record names and reference numbers of police officers who may attend the scene.
  • Make a note of any CCTV cameras – CCTV cameras on poles or buildings nearby, or vehicles with dashboard cams, may have captured the collision. CCTV usually is only kept for a limited time so there will be a "shelf life" to obtain a copy.

All of the above will assist your own motor insurance company investigate the claim, or potentially defend a claim against you, and also assist a solicitor whom you may instruct to pursue a personal injury claim against the driver you hold at fault.

What if I’m injured and can’t record any details?

If your injuries prevent you from recording any details then your legal representative will likely contact the police for the details of the other driver, contact details for any witnesses to be interviewed, and a copy of the police report.

This can take time, so if you are able to gather at least the other driver’s details to pass on, then do so.

For serious injury claims, your representative may later on arrange for an Accident Reconstruction Report, and may interview police collision investigators to assist with further developing the case.

If you do attend hospital then often the ambulance paramedic, hospital admission nurse and /or doctor will ask you "what happened." Try as best you can to recount the same facts and resist the temptation of guessing. The medical records that contain a description of the crash circumstances may later help or hinder your case because those records may be obtained for any litigation.

What else will my solicitor do?

Your legal representative may also instruct a motor engineer to inspect your vehicle to confirm the area of impact and extent of the damage. It is worth exploring this before repairs are completed. At the very least, take photos of the damage before repairs are completed.

Later on, an investigator may be instructed to attend the collision scene to prepare a road plan, with measurements, and photographs. Often helpful if you are also able to attend so a clear plan can be prepared.

Liability and proving fault

If the driver at fault admits 'primary liability' for causing the collision, that's not necessarily the end of the story.

They might allege that you were contributory negligent, which means that although the other driver admits 'triggering' the crash, they believe you could have done something to avoid it.

These arguments are typical when a crash happens on a roundabout, road junction or country road.

Again, the early gathering of evidence can help resist a claim for contributory negligence which, if proven, then the percentage of blame apportioned between the parties can equate to reduced compensation. For example, an award of £100,000 could be reduced to £50,000 where both parties accept 50% responsibility.

The driver at fault could admit to a collision having occurred but argue that you did not suffer any injuries as a result. Therefore, evidence obtained early can be helpful, such as the speed of the vehicles, extent of the damage, and what was recorded by any medical professional.

If you have suffered injury but don't attend hospital, then do contact your GP as soon as possible so that a formal entry in your medical records can be made. This can be referred to later on to help prove that an injury was sustained.

It's worth bearing in mind that you may need to attend court to give evidence. Instructing a specialist road traffic accident solicitor is vital in guiding you through this process.

How we can help

If you've been involved in a road traffic accident and need specialist advice, please don’t hesitate to contact Slater and Gordon’s highly experienced, specialist lawyers on freephone 0330 107 5059 or contact us online to make an enquiry.

All the above information was correct at the time of publication.

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