Drivers and passengers injured in the Sheppey Bridge accident should think twice before accepting the first compensation payment they are offered, says personal injury specialist Neille Ryan.
“Contrary to what some insurers are so flippantly shouting from the rooftops at the moment, claims for injuries sustained on our roads are often far too complicated to be trusted to them or their lawyers,” says Neille. “The result is that a lot of people end up not receiving the maximum compensation they are entitled to.
“The Sheppey Bridge accident on September 5 is a good example. Because more than 100 vehicles were involved, sorting out who is to blame could be extremely tricky,” adds Neille, a partner with leading Kent law firm Furley Page.
“Injured passengers clearly could not have been to blame so they will definitely have a claim but the question is, against whom? The driver of another vehicle or perhaps the driver of the vehicle they were travelling in?
“Drivers of vehicles who have been hit but have no front-end damage probably have a claim but, again, without specialist advice it’s going to be difficult for them to know exactly who was responsible for hitting them. For example, it might not have been the car immediately behind them if, say, that car was itself shunted forward by an impact from behind.
“Then there are the vehicles with multiple impact damage, with potentially endless possibilities in terms of who was responsible and which certainly need careful and specialist investigation,” says Neille.
Speaking on BBC Radio Kent following the Sheppey Bridge accident, Neille said it could also be hard to win a claim against the Highway Authority on the grounds of road layout, inadequate signage and lighting, and an excessive speed limit. “While the Highway Authority has a duty to maintain our roads, generally it doesn’t have to go any further and actually improve the road system,” he says.
A bomb scare at the Dartford Crossing, which caused further chaos for motorists just days after the Sheppey Bridge accident, could potentially have presented another legal minefield says Neille.
“Thankfully it was a hoax but the incident raises questions about what would happen if, next time, the device is real and causes injury. The crossing is owned by the Highways Agency but is run by a private company, so which of them would be the defendant in a compensation claim?
“Do either of them have a responsibility to take steps to prevent a terrorist attack which, by its very nature, could be extremely hard to protect against? On top of all that, because an act of terrorism is a crime, injured victims may be entitled to a criminal injuries compensation award which a motor insurer is highly unlikely to be able to offer advice about.”
According to The Law Society, research by the Financial Services Authority (now known as the Financial Conduct Authority) showed that personal injury claimants who turn down an insurer’s initial offer and take legal advice from a solicitor get on average up to three times more compensation.
“So don’t get mugged by your or another driver’s insurer,” urges Neille. “If you’re unfortunate enough to be injured by the action of another, contact a specialist personal injury solicitor for independent, impartial advice or you could be losing out on your full entitlement.”
Neille Ryan has extensive experience in personal injury and industrial disease compensation claims and is recommended by the independent national legal guide Chambers UK. For further information about personal injury claims, contact Neille on 01227 763939.
Notes to editors
The Law Society
The Law Society launched its ‘Don’t Get Mugged’ campaign in June this year to urge consumers not to accept the first offer of compensation from insurers but seek advice on how to pursue a claim through a specialist personal injury solicitor. For details visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/dontgetmugged
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