Many of us have been driving for years without having been involved in a car accident. It might be the last thing on your mind as you get into the car each morning but it can happen to anyone, no matter how good a driver they are. Driving is so second nature that we don’t often think about what could go wrong or what we should do when it does. These are the things you should do if you end up in a car accident. Many of them are required by law, even for minor scrapes, so it’s vital you’re aware of them.
Stop the car as soon as you can but only when it’s safe to do so. It is an offence to flee the scene of an accident, no matter how minor.
Switch off your engine and turn on your hazard warning lights.
Take a moment to calm yourself and assess the situation. Are you or any of your passengers injured? Check the passengers of other vehicles involved, as long as it is safe to do so.
Move your car to the side of the road to avoid further collisions but only if it is safe to do so.
Go to a safe area away from moving traffic.
If anyone is injured, call an ambulance and the police immediately.
It is also important to call the police if the accident has caused the road to become blocked.
Don’t lose your temper or behave aggressively towards other drivers.
Don’t admit responsibility for the accident as it can make you liable, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
Exchange details (name, address and insurance information). You must do this by law.
Get the details of any other passengers or pedestrians who witnessed the accident.
Try to find out who the registered owner of the other vehicle is. It may not be the person who was driving at the time of the accident.
If the other vehicle is a commercial vehicle, such as an HGV, it may be wise to make a note of the company, especially if the vehicle is from outside the UK.
As above, you should call the police straight away if anybody was injured in the accident but there are other situations where you need to do so.
If other drivers involved in the accident flee the scene or withhold their details
If you think the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
If you suspect the other driver caused the accident on purpose. There are drivers who do this in order to benefit financially
Even if you don’t require the police immediately after the accident, you should call them within 24 hours to avoid fines, penalty point or full disqualification from driving
It is a good idea to make notes and take photos at the scene of a car accident. The more information you record, the easier it will be to prove what happened and to make an insurance claim. Taking photographs is the easiest and most reliable way of recording many of the important information below.
Details of other drivers, including name, address and insurance information.
Details of passengers or people who witnessed the accident.
The make, model and colour of the other vehicles involved.
The number plates of other vehicles involved.
Damage caused to your vehicle and other vehicles involved.
Positions of the vehicles involved.
Injuries suffered by you or anyone else involved.
The date and time of the accident.
The driving conditions, including the weather and condition of the road.
The make, model, colour, and number plate of other vehicles involved in the accident.
Most insurers require you to inform them of any accident, no matter how small, even if you don’t plan to make a claim. If you do want to make a claim, phone your insurance provider as soon as possible. They’ll ask for many of the details you gathered at the time of the accident. If you can, call them at the time of the accident. Many require that you do so within 24 hours of the crash.
No matter how minor a car accident is, you are still legally required to leave your details and inform the police. Under the Road Traffic Act (1988), if you’re the driver of a vehicle that is involved in an accident which causes damage to any vehicle, property or animal, you must stop and give your details to the relevant party. If there is nobody around, such as when you crash into a parked car, you should leave your details somewhere they can easily be found by the owner. You should also inform the police within 24 hours that an accident occurred and that there was no one around to exchange details with.
The best way to avoid the trauma, stress and hassle of an accident is to not have one in the first place. Whilst this isn’t always possible, there are various steps you can take to minimise your risk and make it less likely to happen.