Minor accidents cause major headaches
When we talk about crashes on the roads we tend immediately to think of the very serious ones where people are hurt. The vast majority of cases are less serious ‘material damage collisions’.
Typically there are about 20,000 of these every year. In most cases when a minor crash happens it is a whole new experience for the unfortunate driver, and a very unpleasant experience at that.
Even if you are a calm and measured person by nature, having a shunt is likely to leave you very flustered and unable to think straight. There is a flush of adrenaline and a very natural instinct to want to get away out of the situation immediately.
Hence you get people saying ‘I’m fine, I’m fine!’ as they want nothing more than to get away from the scene and get home. Often this is something that you regret afterwards.
If it happens (touch wood and all that), there are a few pointers to remember. It is worth having a think about these in the cold light of day and maybe be a bit more prepared just in case.
The first thing to think about is everybody’s safety. Try to calmly assess your own body, and then check if any of your passengers or others involved appear to be injured in any way. If it established that we are dealing with a fender-bender and not an emergency the first thing to do is to decide whether or not to move the cars.
A minor shunt is low priority for the Garda and they may not be able to attend the scene, at least not quickly. You have to have some sympathy for other road users; you don’t want to block a main road at rush hour because of a broken wing mirror.
If safe to do so, get both cars moved in to the side of the road. Use your hazard lights and if you have a warning triangle (most modern cars will) set it up about 20 yards behind the car. If it is safe to do so then remove any debris from the road surface.
There are a number of pieces of information that you are not allowed to withhold from any other party involved in a collision. These include your own name and identity and the details of your motor insurance policy. Swap these details, and take not also of the name and number of any Garda attending.
You do not have to discuss who was at fault at the scene. Even if you think you were responsible take full details of the other driver’s insurance. If he doesn’t have any and is at fault, the claim will be picked up by the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (which we all pay into every time we buy motor insurance).
It is a good idea to photograph the scene. Use your mobile and take pics that show the position of all vehicles involved and close-ups of the damage sustained. Pictures can show relevant details like road markings, weather conditions etc.
One thing that often frustrates drivers is that once a crash happens you don’t have negotiating rights yourself. I am afraid that is true – part of the contract with an insurance company is that they have the right to settle the claim.
It has happened that an insurer settles even though you feel that you were not at fault. The more detail that you have from the scene the less likely that is to happen.
Most people are honest but of course not all. There are chancers out there who will decide afterwards that they have all sorts of injuries – headaches, agoraphobia, loss of libido and of course our old favourite: whiplash.
I am convinced that there is a special place in hell reserved for appalling opportunists like that. To be fair Irish insurance companies are much better at standing up to that nonsense than they used to be.
In fact they are far better than their counterparts in the UK, although that is another story. In the meantime the more information that you have from the scene the less likely you are to get stung like that.