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Road traffic accident claims

Road traffic accident claims process

The process of claiming after a road traffic collision can be confusing and complex. The below guide has been written by our legal experts to help you understand the claims process from start to finish.

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What do I need to know before making a road traffic accident claim?

The process of making a road traffic accident claim can be drawn out and complex, so it’s important to make sure that you’re up to date on the latest legislation changes and rules that govern the way in which compensation claims are managed.

Lawyers dealing with cases of road traffic accidents must follow the rules laid out by the court and if either party fails to comply, the court may impose sanctions, such as refusing permission to rely on certain evidence (like medical reports) or striking out the case (which means that the person making the claim won't receive compensation may be ordered to pay legal costs).

The two core pieces of legislation that dictate the way in which road traffic accident claims are processed are the Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) in England and Wales (the Scots Civil Procedure applies to Scotland), and the Personal Injury Protocol.

The Personal Injury Protocol is the court action set out within the CPR that aims to:

  • Encourage early exchange of information by both parties
  • Encourage early pre action investigations by both parties
  • Try to avoid court proceedings by reaching an agreement before that is necessary
  • Where court proceedings are necessary, it sets a court timetable of how the case will run.

Your lawyer will be obligated to send a Letter of Claim to the other party, setting out the facts of the case, including details of injuries and financial losses. The other side then has 21 days to respond and identify their insurers, after which they have three months to investigate and confirm whether they accept responsibility.

What are the recent changes made to whiplash compensation claims?

On 31 May 2021, the government enacted the Civil Liability Act 2018 and the Whiplash Reforms, which changed the way in which low value whiplash compensation claims were handled.

Under the new legislation, whiplash claims will not be able to be settled without a medical assessment, and will introduce new fixed compensation amounts based on how long the symptoms last, and whether or not you also suffered minor psychological injuries. Amounts awarded range from £240 to £4,345.

It also means that the insurer of the vehicle at fault for the accident will not pay for appropriate legal advice on behalf of the victim unless:

  • The compensation amount for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (enjoyment or quality of life) is likely to be more than £5,000
  • The total amount of compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity together with any financial losses, such as lost wages, is more than £10,000

This effectively means that for anyone make a claim worth less than £5,000 for whiplash injuries will no longer be able to get legal advice without paying for it themselves. Instead, claims can be made by the victim themselves, via a new self-service online portal called Official Injury Claim.

It is strongly advised that you speak to a specialist road traffic accident solicitor to get an idea of how much your claim could be worth before deciding to make a claim yourself.

What is the process for a road traffic accident claim?

However much you believe your claim may be worth, it is always best to start by speaking to a specialist road traffic accident solicitor. They will be able to advise you on how much you may be able to claim for your injuries, as well as advising you on the potential cost for legal support and the impact this will likely have on the outcome of your case.

It’s a good idea to be prepared with as much information as possible when speaking to your solicitor; make sure you’re able to recount the exact circumstances of your accident, where the damage was located on the car, and the details of the person you believe to be at fault (including insurance information).

  • Your solicitor will then assess the information you provide and, if they determine that you have a claim, they will then contact the insurers of the party to blame.
  • To support your claim, the next step will be to gather supporting evidence. This will likely consist of witness statements, police reports and medical evidence (this will require access to your medical records, as well as arranging for you to have an examination with an independent medical expert who specialises in providing expert medical evidence in these cases.)
  • As part of the claims process, you should also be provided access to treatment and rehabilitation to maximise the chances of a full recovery. At Slater and Gordon, we have an in-house rehabilitation specialist, who will work with your solicitor to ensure you receive the best possible treatment.
  • Most road traffic accident claims will require negotiations with the other side to determine the amount of compensation that they will pay. In the majority of cases, these negotiations will successfully conclude your case, though there are a minority that will be taken to court. If this happens, your solicitor will fully explain the court proceedings, and be on hand to support you throughout.

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Do I need to attend a court hearing to settle my road traffic accident claim?

In most cases, negotiations will lead to a successful conclusion of a claim for road traffic accident injuries. However, there are occasions when a successful settlement can't be reached and the matter has to go to court so a judge can decide on the outcome of the case.

The judge will control evidence and restrict cross examination and your lawyer will usually ask you to attend earlier than your allotted court time to meet and run through what will happen.

Depending on the amount of evidence to be heard, some hearings can last several days. This can sometimes be the case where the nature of the injuries are severe and as a result medical evidence is extensive.

Once all the evidence has been heard, the judge will summarise the case and provide what is known as a Judgment. This is the judge's final decision on the outcome of the case. The Judgment will include who wins the case, what monies should be paid and within what time period.

There are three different processes when it comes to making a claim for a road traffic accident and the court process varies depending on the process:

The small claims track process

If you've suffered a whiplash injury in a road traffic accident where compensation for your injury is valued at less than £5,000, then your claim will be processed as part of the Official Injury Compensation Portal small claims track. Unfortunately, Slater and Gordon no longer act for clients whose claims are valued in the small claims track, but our specialists would be able to identify this with you during the initial conversation and provide advice on your options.

The fast track process

If your road traffic accident claim is valued at up to £25,000, this is known in the legal industry as a fast track claim. If you need to attend court in a fast track claim, the hearing is usually informal, with parties and representatives sat around a table with a judge who will ask questions at various stages. We'll provide you with expert legal advice and representation in these court hearings.

The multi-track process

Road traffic accident claims valued above £25,000 are known in the legal industry as multi track claims. This process is different to the fast track process as the reason they're valued at more than £25,000 usually means that the injuries suffered are more serious, meaning recovery could take much longer or there may be permanent symptoms.

This obviously means the claims process takes longer and can be much more complex.

Therefore, the court hearings are much more formal. However, our experts will be there to provide expert representation and will guide you through.

How long do I have to make a claim for a road traffic accident?

Experiencing a road traffic accident can be a stressful and unnerving time, and it can leave you unsure of how to act for the best. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it’s crucial that you take the right steps, ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved is the top priority. You can read more about how to respond in the aftermath of an accident here.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a road traffic accident, the first thing on your mind is unlikely to be compensation. However, it is important to understand there are time limits that dictate how long after an accident you can claim; this is generally given as three years from the date of the accident, or when you could have reasonably become aware of the injury. This isn’t always the case though – there are certain circumstances that could change the time limit, so it is always best to speak to a specialist road traffic accident solicitor if you’re unsure.

Do I need to use the law firm my insurer suggested for my road traffic accident compensation claim?

When you first inform your insurance company that you have been in an accident, it is likely that they will recommend a law firm to handle any compensation claim you would like to make. However, there is no obligation on you to use the firm they suggest.

As making a road traffic accident claim can be a long and complex process, involving many different stages, negotiations with the other side, and potential court proceedings, it is vital that you are happy with the solicitors representing you.

In practice, this means you need to full comfortable that the solicitor working on your case is an expert in the field, has a true understanding of the impact your accident has had on your life, and will do their best not only to secure the best possible outcome in terms of compensation, but also has the ability to support you through your recovery via access to treatment and rehabilitation.

What medical evidence will I need for a road traffic accident claim?

In order to support your personal injury claim, your lawyer will need to obtain medical evidence. In order to do this, they will have to obtain your medical records and arrange for you to have an examination with an independent medical expert who specialises in providing medical reports for the court. This is known as a medico legal report.

The medico legal report will provide details of your injury and the medical expert's prognosis (their opinion as to if and when they believe you are likely to make a full recovery from your injuries).

During the medical examination, the expert should ask you questions about the accident and about your injuries. They should also ask about the impact the injuries have had on your everyday life, for example, is there anything you now struggle to do or have been unable to do.

If the medico legal report is unclear or there are elements you disagree with, your lawyer can put questions to the medical expert.

Can I access treatment and rehabilitation for my injuries during a road traffic accident claim?

When someone suffers an injury as a result of a road traffic accident, it's extremely important to ensure that they're able to access the best and most appropriate treatment and physiotherapy to get them back to, or as near to as possible, the condition they were in prior to the accident.

In cases where the injuries are more serious, research shows that eventual outcome of an injured person's condition is much better when they've had rehabilitation treatment which can maximise their chance of recovery and future independence. Lawyers who specialise in dealing with claims arising from serious life changing injuries should see it as an important part of their role to ensure that their clients have access to the best quality rehabilitation.

Talk to us about your case

Call us now on:   0330 041 5869

Why choose Slater and Gordon?


We are an award winning law firm and have a dedicated team of road traffic accident solicitors to advise and guide you – no matter how complex your situation may be.

Affordability and advice

We're able to offer affordable expert legal advice and can provide guidance on all aspects of road traffic accident claims. Our Initial Consultation provides tailored advice on your situation giving you clear guidance and options regarding next steps.

Tailored advice

We understand that every claim is different – so we are able to provide tailored advice and guidance to suit your individual needs.

Local access

We are a national law firm, with legal experts available locally across the UK. Meetings can be arranged via telephone or video call, to suit your requirements.

Speak to one of our road traffic accident solicitors today

Call us now on:   0330 041 5869
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