Friday, 9 February 2018

Personal Post: I Was In A Car Accident | AD

I think this is the first (and probably only) personal post I've ever written on here. It makes a change from the usual programme of lipsticks and glitter, I suppose.

The Accident 
Something you may not know about me is that I was in a car accident when I was 18. That sounds a little click bait-y; it was a minor car accident. The woman driving the car behind me drove into the back of me when I was in stationary rush hour traffic. On the face of it you'd think this would be a very straight forward claim - you know, given I was literally stopped - but the catch was the stationary traffic was on a roundabout. Despite me providing a witness to confirm the state of the traffic that morning (although unfortunately she didn't see the accident itself), the other driver was able to counter argue that I had cut her up while changing lane on the roundabout without signalling. This was completely untrue, the traffic had been stationary to rolling for some time, and I had been steadily working my way around the roundabout to my exit in the appropriate speed. 

The way I remembered the actual moment of the accident was: as I said, I was crawling around the roundabout, and I stopped where I deliberately left a gap so that traffic could flow onto the roundabout. Effectively, I stopped and let somebody out - it only took a few seconds. Once a car, or maybe two, had joined the roundabout where I'd left room for them to do so, I rolled forward so I was actually on my exit. Because the traffic was stationary on the road I was trying to join, it caused a queue onto the roundabout and I positioned my car where the roundabout and the exit meet. Just as I stopped, another car slammed into the back of me. 

The Injury 
I don't think she could have been going very fast because of the nature of the traffic that morning, but I remember feeling the hit hard. I remember feeling my chest slam into the seatbelt and feeling my neck jolt forward sharply. I always thought whiplash was one of those things people claimed to have to get money. But my word it's painful. I remember following the accident, my rear bumper was hanging off and touching the ground so I wasn't sure what to do about it. My dad worked only about 10 minutes away so I called him to come and meet me, and he taped the bumper back up just so it was safe to drive my car home. About halfway home - so about half an hour after the impact - my neck and shoulders seized up. I remember driving home crying in pain because I couldn't move. I could barely glance down to look in the wing mirror, and holding my hands up to the steering wheel hurt me a lot. Once we got home, we jumped into my dads car and went straight to my GP surgery, who advised us to go to A&E. To my surprise I was seen instantly (we've all heard horror stories of sitting in A&E for hours) and because my whole upper body was numb, I had to be taken via ambulance to hospital as a precautionary measure in case I'd broken my back. I know that sounds a bit extreme (I rolled my eyes at the time too) but they said a sudden jolt to the spine and neck is actually very dangerous.

I hadn't broken my back thankfully, but I did pass out in the ambulance because I had a panic attack. This was brought on by a) the shock of the accident and b) the spinal board. I wouldn't wish being strapped onto a spinal board onto my worst enemy. It's the most horrific feeling of claustrophobia. It freaked me out even though I've never had an issue with enclosed spaces. The spinal board is supposed to keep you perfectly still so that if you have seriously injured yourself, you can't do any further damage by moving around. You're basically wrapped in a large flat bean bag (that's the only way I can describe it) that, once it's moulded to your body, turns completely solid. You're also strapped down, across your legs, chest and even forehead. You can't move a muscle. It's awful.

I was discharged from hospital with painkillers, and my dad also treated me to a McDonalds on the way home. It might sound silly that I had to have a week off of school because of a 'sore neck', but it was agony. The only way I can describe the sensation was like my neck and back being spongy, but at the same time feeling hard and stiff. It was very painful and made moving difficult for about a month. Even now, still, I am prone to a bad back, that given I'm only 21, I can only imagine is a direct result of my injury a few years ago. 
The Claim
I didn't do much research myself into the actual claim, I let my insurance company handle it all. With hindsight, I would have liked to have a bit more input and choice. I was lumped with the legal team my insurance usually use, and I can't say they were that good with actually communicating to me. If I was to find myself in the same position now, I would definitely do some research myself and perhaps seek legal advice elsewhere.

It was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of lengthy letters with legal jargon I didn't understand. Eventually it did go to court, and I remember when it got to that stage I was very scared and nearly backed out. The judge would have to look at the balance of probabilities. The barrister I met with at the court explained to me that, whilst in a criminal trial for a judge to convict someone of a crime, they'd have to be 99% sure they were guilty, but in simpler cases like mine, the judge need only be 51% sure that one version of events is more true than the other.

 I was made an offer of a "50/50" which my legal team were reluctant to explain what that meant to me (obviously, the longer it went on for, the more they got paid - they didn't seem to care whether I understood or not). What I interpreted it as meaning was that the claim would conclude with no actual compensation for my injuries, and that myself and the other driver would accept 50% of the responsibility each. It didn't actually mean that, which the barrister also explained to me.

What it actually meant was that I'd get 50% of the money I was offered, they would accept responsibility and it wouldn't go to court. It was as simple as that - as soon as the barrister explained this to me, I said I'd like to settle then and there, before even going into the court room. He nipped across to the barrister representing the other driver, asked if they were still willing to settle - and they were. I did only get 50% of the compensation that was potentially on the table had we gone in and the judge had decided in my favour, but at 18, when you're offered just over £2000 with no strings attached, you take it. That's an incredible amount of money at that age. I spent it on a really beautiful trip to Paris with my boyfriend that summer - which you can read about here

How It Changed My Life 
At the time my claim came to court, I was at quite a difficult crossroads in my life. I'd just dropped out of University (I had been studying History at the University of Sussex), was working part time as a waitress (I still am, to be fair!) but didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, or what the next steps were.

The couple of hours I spent at Maidstone County Court talking to the barrister made me realise that actually I wanted to study law myself. It all seemed so interesting and methodological, which suits me down to the ground. Within a few weeks I'd been given a place at The University of Kent to study law,  which this year has been ranked 15th in The Guardian University Guide. As horrible as the whole process of being in an accident and the subsequent claim was, I'd say it's actually now given me an advantage in studying Law. When reading about example scenarios in my Tort law text book that mirror mine, it's really easy for me to relate to it and the legal jargon wasn't quite as foreign to me as it would have been had I not been dealing with letters RE my claim for the last year.

I feel like I've turned a corner and I'm on the right track now, so even though going to court seemed so scary at the time, it turned out to be a pivotal moment in my life, stemming from someone not watching where they were going when they were driving!
If, like me, you were injured in an accident that wasn't your fault and you want to seek compensation for your injuries, Accident Advice Helpline may be able to help. 

I hope you enjoyed this rather bittersweet anecdote about my life, and the change of pace from my usual beauty posts!

 You can also find me on Bloglovin' Twitter Facebook & Instagram    

*Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Accident Advice Helpline, but as usual, all wording is my own.   
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9 comments

  1. I am glad that you have found the path you want to take and wish you good luck, how strange it is that sometimes great things come from an unhappy situation!

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  2. This is a fantastic post. I’m so sorry about your accident, (And people really will say anything to get some compensation won’t they?? Disgusting.) but I love that you finished it off with the silver lining of finding what you really want to do in life. I hope you’re not too troubled by your injuries in the future.

    Emma x | http://www.violetelm.com

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  3. Wow, I'm so happy for you that it turned out good! Like a blessing in disguise. I'm now 18 myself and I'm graduating high school this year, so I'm kinda struggling with what to do next, but this was very inspiring!

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  4. That sounds horrendous. I hope your studies work out as well as can be for you. And thank you for the tip; I wouldn't know where to start, going through something like this.

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  5. This is so scary and, unless you have witnesses, it is just your word against the other person's.

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  6. I am glad that you have found your own path you want to take and wish you good luck.

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  7. That’s great that you’re pursuing something that you enjoy now! I hope that your back & neck feel better soon♥️

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  8. Too bad you had go through the accident to find what you love and want to do, but, in the end it turned out pretty good. Thank God nothing permanent happened.
    I had an accident 2 years ago and I haven't driven since cause I'm so scared. I only hit a neighbor's fence (few meters of it) and nobody was hurt except my car, but I'm constantly thinking what damage I could have done in a real traffic. Hopefully I'll get out of it soon :D not to make this comment about me, right? haha

    xo Honey - blog Royal Lifestyle - Twitter - Instagram

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