What you should do if you’re injured in an accident…
On discovering what Abbi Stell of our Bristol office specialises in, one of the things people ask most regularly is ‘what should I do if I have an accident?’ The key, she explains, is gathering contemporaneous (i.e. at-the-time) evidence…
When you are unfortunate enough to be injured in an accident that’s someone else’s fault, good evidence can be the difference between a personal injury claim succeeding or failing. The types of evidence you might gather vary depending on the type of claim you are pursuing. But we can roughly break them down into:
- Accident report
- Medical treatment
Usually the first written record of an accident, you should complete one of these as soon after the event as possible. Work and public places (such as shops, bars and public buildings) should all have an ‘accident book’. You should complete this yourself, so you can put down the accident details in your own words. These can sometimes be misinterpreted if someone else completes an accident book. When you’re sure that the contents are correct you should sign your report. And, if possible, ask for a copy of the accident book entry in case it ever gets mislaid.
If your accident involved a slip or trip on a public highway, you should report it to the local council as soon as possible – preferably in writing. And you should keep a copy for yourself. If the only way to report is by telephone, keep a record of the date and time of your call, together with the name of the person you spoke to and, ideally, a reference number.
Witnesses can provide an independent view of an accident, and can be split in to two types – eyewitnesses and non-eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses are able to say what they saw happen. And, even if related or known to you, they can still be used. Non-eyewitnesses can provide evidence about other aspects of a claim. For example evidence from a relative, friend or colleague can show how an accident has affected you.
Another important type of witness in a tripping claim is what is known as a ‘S58’ witness. This is someone who can provide evidence as to how long a defect (such as a raised paving slab) has been in existence. I’ve recently dealt with a tripping claim in court that owed its successful outcome due largely to the evidence of a S58 witness.
The more witnesses you can find, the better!
The old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true in a personal injury claim. They can serve several purposes:
- they can be invaluable in showing the extent of an injury causing bruising, lacerations or scarring
- they can help everyone involved in the claim to have a solid idea of the issues involved; for example showing the layout of a building or the set-up of a piece of work equipment
- they can show facts that are vital to a claim. It’s very difficult, for example, to argue that a defect in a pavement is half an inch in height when you have a photograph to show otherwise. Likewise, it’s hard to say that a car wasn’t involved in a road traffic accident when you have a photograph showing it at the accident scene. Photographs showing such facts can, again, be the deciding factor in whether a claim is successful or not.
Medical treatment might also be needed for injuries sustained in an accident. And, if there’s no other record of it, GP or hospital notes showing attendance for injury can help to prove that the accident did occur. Medical details can also be helpful in proving facts about an accident. They can, for example, show what injuries were complained of at the time. Or whether or not a claimant was under the influence of alcohol.
So the thing to remember if you are injured in an accident is to gather as much evidence as possible at the time. Because if you do go on to make a personal injury claim, this evidence can make all the difference between success and failure. And if you do need any legal advice about accidents and personal injury, don’t hesitate to contact us. P&B are specialists and will always be happy to help.