Insurance nightmare after Sheppey pile-up

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Insurers are notoriously reluctant to accept liability for a small collision. Understandably then there is a lot of jockeying for position among car insurers regarding the payout for the recent Sheppey Bridge pile-up. Nobody was killed in the incident, although 130 cars were involved and 35 people injured, eight seriously.

The problem is pinning down blame, or at least identifying the cause of the crash. Poor visibility was the most important factor, with fog shrouding the bridge. This was compounded by reports that some drivers did not have their lights on approaching the bridge.

Some drivers may have been approaching the bridge too fast, but the design of the bridge may have been at fault. The speed limit at the four-lane crossing is 70 mph, but that speed is obviously inappropriate when visibility is poor. With so many considerations, insurance claims will be a nightmare, and could involve complex litigation.

The insurance wrangles may take months or even years to sort out. Personal injury specialist Ben Rogers told the BBC: "With more vehicles involved, there may well be greater argument about who was at fault, and which collision was in fact responsible for causing the damage complained of." He suggested that compensation for personal injuries could take as long as two or three years to come through, depending on the causes and severity of the injuries.

The settlements may involve lengthy scrutiny of video and photographic evidence and the involvement of accident specialists. "Drivers might need to use specialists to investigate and obtain copies of police reports and witness statements," Rogers said. "Your own insurer might suggest a firm, but the difficulty is you're not necessarily going to get the best solicitor for the job."

In short, it could be a case of the driver with the sharpest legal advice will get the best insurance settlement.

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