The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is a UK government department, responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities.
In September 2014, it produced a report following an investigation into the private motor insurance market.
One of the things they considered was the possibility of providing improved information to consumers on their rights following an accident. They noted that there appeared to be market-wide support for such a measure.
CMA found a poor level of awareness among consumers about their basic rights following a road traffic accident that was not the consumer’s fault.
The report summarises the legal and factual background to its remit.
It explains how the law requires motorists to hold a valid insurance policy to cover “third party” risks. In other words, insure against the risk they will injure another person or their property through their driving and have to pay compensation for those losses.
Risks covering fire and theft are also commonly covered as well as the compulsory third party element.
In fact, most motorists go further than that and purchase comprehensive insurance – which covers possible damage to your own vehicle as well as to that of a third party.
As the word “compensation” indicates, by law, the at-fault party in an accident is required to put the non-fault party ‘back into the position they would have been in but for the accident happening’, as regards property and injury-related losses.
Under private motor insurance, therefore, you’ve got two possible types of claims.
- Non-fault claims, which are against another driver and will be covered by that driver’s insurance, and
- ‘At-fault’ claims, which must be covered by the claimant’s own insurance.
Depending on the accident circumstances, more than one driver may be at fault / negligent. It may be possible to agree the distribution of fault between the parties and their insurers. If not, it may only be capable of resolution through litigation.
The CMA’s survey of non-fault claimants found that many of them were unaware of their fundamental legal rights in the circumstances.
As a result, many of them inevitably under-estimated the strength of their bargaining position.
For example, CMA asked about the following established legal principles in this area (i.e. these statements represent the law):
- As the non-fault party to an accident, your legal right is to be restored to your pre-accident position, and
- While your vehicle is being repaired or replaced you are entitled to have a like-for-like replacement vehicle (subject to you having a need for such a vehicle).
62% of interviewees who could remember said that they were not made aware of any of these rights.
Another question raised by CMA in the survey was this:
Did you know that, as a non-fault claimant, you are legally entitled to have your car repaired at a repairer of your choice?
Only 33% of respondents knew that to be the case. 45% thought their right was to have their vehicle repaired by a repairer of the insurer’s choice.
Over three quarters of respondents knew they were entitled to have a replacement vehicle while theirs was out of action but less than half of them were aware that the replacement should be sufficient to meet their needs but be no better than their own vehicle.
How did CMA suggest consumer knowledge should be improved in this area?
Their suggestion was that insurers should send out a document to their policyholders setting out clearly all of these basic rights.
They recommended that this should be done annually when a motor insurance policy is being renewed and also at the first notification of liability after an accident.
This seems a good idea because, in the first instance, you’d be getting information at the one time in the year when most of us think specifically about motor insurance. In the second instance, it’s provision of information at the time when you really need to know it – when you need to be clearly aware of your rights.
The bottom line, of course, is that non-fault drivers have the power to exercise freedom of choice on a number of issues and, at the moment, many of them are in the dark about these rights.
Summarising your rights after a non-fault road traffic accident.
The CMA report provides a summary of the information their consultation suggested should be included in a fact sheet for non-fault victims of road traffic accident. According to the report, it’s at Appendix 10.2. Unfortunately, it only appears to be the main report which is accessible online.
Luckily, there is a helpful summary of the text provided by Ronnie Conway in his book The Secret Insider’s Guide to Insuring your Car – a book we highly recommend you obtain, read and implement (at the very least, it will probably save you money on your car insurance). (Note: we have no affiliate links to Mr Conway).
Where the accident you were involved in was another person’s fault, the law entitles you to be returned to the position you would have been had the accident never happened.
In doing that, you are entitled to get back the reasonable costs you incur.
Breaking that down, these are the most common heads of claim and your rights under each one:
1. Personal Injury
Where you’ve been injured in the accident, you can claim against the insurers of the at-fault driver. A lawyer will be able to help you make a proper assessment of what this part of the claim is worth.
2. Loss of Wages
If the accident caused you to have to take time off work, you can claim for any resultant loss of earnings.
3. Legal Costs
You are entitled to claim back your legal costs.
4. Your vehicle is written off
Your entitlement is to receive payment of the market value of an equivalent vehicle to the one you’ve lost in the accident – i.e. based on similar age and condition immediately pre-accident. The assessment of market value should be done by reference to publicly-available information.
5. Courtesy or Temporary Replacement Vehicle
You’re entitled to hire a type and size of car equivalent to your own one, with a zero excess on insurance for the hire.
6. Repairs to your vehicle
You are allowed to have your vehicle repaired by a repairer of your own choosing. The repair should be good enough to return your vehicle to its pre-accident condition.
You can claim back various other losses including damage to personal belongings like clothing or glasses. You can also claim an amount for the inconvenience and hassle caused to you by the accident.
See below for the option to download the above summary as a PDF document.
How we can help
In this article, we have considered the question: what are your rights following a road traffic accident that was not your fault?
Given the general level of consumer awareness revealed by CMA’s 2014 report, we hope that we have highlighted something you did not know previously – and which might help you in the future.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact us. Should you have any queries regarding our wider personal injury claims services in general, we are here to help. You can call us on 01343 544077 or send us a Free Online Enquiry.
Download a free fact sheet / checklist
Your rights after a road traffic accident which was not your fault (PDF – 133kB – download begins immediately)
P.S. This article is also the basis for a podcast on this website, which you can access here if you prefer to listen rather than read.