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What Should You Do in the Event of a Car Accident?

Tue, 24/10/2017
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Being involved in a car accident is a stressful experience, especially if you don’t know what you should do or what your legal obligations are. Here we explain what you need to do at the scene of an accident.

What should you do first?

Immediately after you have been involved in an accident, find a safe place to pull over if your car is still drivable. Switch off your engine, turn on your hazard lights, and ensure all passengers and pets are safely out of the vehicle. If there are any injuries, call the emergency services – if you are on the motorway, you can do this using an SOS phone and it will be easier for them to find your exact location.

Should you call the police in the event of an accident?

You should consider calling the police if you are blocking the road, if you think drink or drugs have contributed to the accident, if the other party tries to leave or has left the scene, or if you think the accident is a “crash for cash” scam.

What are your legal obligations?

If you are involved in an accident and damage has been caused to another person or their property, you are legally obligated to stop and provide your full details to the other party. If the other person is injured, you must report the accident to the police as soon as possible, and within 24 hours at the latest. You do not need to report the accident to the police if nobody was injured.

Failing to stop at the scene of an accident, or failing to report an accident you have been involved in, can result in a fine of up to £2,500 and between 5-10 penalty points. In serious cases, these offences can also lead to a prison sentence. This applies even if you are not to blame for the accident.

Your legal obligations apply not only if you are directly involved in an accident, but also if your vehicle’s presence was a contributing factor.

What if no damage has been caused?

If you hit a stationary car and there is no damage, you do not have to provide details. However, you do need to provide details even if there is a very small amount of damage. If you can’t locate the owner, you can leave a note on the car’s windscreen.

What details do you need to provide?

You must give your vehicle registration number, name and address, and the name and address of the vehicle owner (if different) to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking for these details. If someone else is injured, you must provide your certificate of insurance to anyone with grounds to see it. If you don’t have it, you may take it to a police station within seven days of the accident.

It is advisable to exchange insurance details with the other party immediately, and if you report the accident you will need to give your insurance details to the police, along with your MOT certificate if they ask for it. Failing to provide these details to the police is an offence.

What should you make a note of?

At the scene of the accident, you should write down as much information as possible to help the police and your insurance company. This may include the time, date and location of the accident, any relevant road markings or signs, and weather conditions. Make a note of the vehicles and any damage, including vehicle models, registration numbers, speed of travel, a description of the damage, and details of any injuries. Take photos of any damage with your mobile phone. If you have a dashcam, a recording taken at the time of the accident will also be useful. The contact details of people involved may also be important – including drivers, passengers, pedestrians and witnesses.

Do you need to inform your insurer about your accident?

You should inform your insurer about the accident within the time period set out in your insurance policy. Leaving it too late could invalidate your cover. You don’t have to make a claim, but it is worth considering doing so if your repair costs are high or if your car is a write-off. You should have a document from your insurer which explains how to make a claim. Bear in mind that what you can claim will depend on your insurance policy. For example, if you have third party or third party, fire and theft only, then accidental damage to your car won’t be covered, whereas it would if you have comprehensive cover.

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