What to do after a car accident
No one expects to be involved in an accident. But it can happen in the blink of an eye - whether it is your fault or someone else's fault.
Even a small bump or a big crash gets adrenaline pumping and shock can set in, so things can be a bit of a blur. Most people say they know what to do next, until it happens to them.
Immediately after the accident
- Stop the car as soon as possible – it's an offence not to do so.
- Turn off the engine.
- Switch the hazard lights on.
- Check for any injuries to yourself or your passengers.
- If it's a minor collision and there are no injuries, make a note of it just in case the other people later try to claim for an injury.
- Call the police and an ambulance immediately if anyone is hurt or if the road is blocked.
- Try to remain as calm as possible – its normal to be shaken after an accident, take a few deep breaths and try to take stock of the situation the best you can. And don't lose your temper.
- Don't apologise or admit responsibility for the accident until you're completely aware of what happened – this can protect you from liability if it wasn't your fault.
When should I call the police?
- If the other driver or drivers leave the scene without giving details.
- If you think the other driver has no insurance or is under the influence of drink or drugs.
- If you suspect that the other driver caused the collision deliberately.
Tell the police about the accident within 24 hours – if you don't you may be given a fine, points on your licence, or a disqualification from driving.
Exchange motoring details
- Share your name and address with everyone involved if the accident caused damage or injury – the law says you must do this.
- Swap insurance information and details with the other driver(s).
- Take down details of any other passengers and witnesses to the accident.
- Try to find out if the other driver is the registered owner of the vehicle, if they are not, find out who the owner is and get that information too (for instance it might be a company car).
- If a foreign lorry is involved, get the numbers on both the lorry and its trailer, sometimes they are different. Its also a good idea to get the name of the company if its painted on the lorry.
What should I record at the accident scene?
- The make, model, colour, and number plate of the vehicles involved in the accident or take pictures of them.
- The time and date of the crash.
- The driving conditions, including the weather, lighting, and road quality (such as road markings, whether its wet or muddy, repair of the road surface).
- What sort of damage was caused to the vehicles and where – nearside front wing and door (nearside is the left side of your car, offside is the drivers side).
- Any injuries to drivers, passengers, or pedestrians.
- The names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Use your phone to take pictures of the scene, the positions of the cars involved, and damage to the cars.
If no one else is involved in the accident, for example you caused damage to private property or a parked car, you should leave your details – for instance a note where the owner can see it. And honesty pays. If a witness or CCTV camera saw you and noted your car number but you drove off, you could be in serious trouble.
Making a claim to your insurance provider
Phone your insurance company as soon as possible – ideally at the time of the accident. They'll ask for:
- Your policy number or information to identify you, such as your post code and car registration number.
- The registration number of the cars involved.
- The driver's name, address and phone number.
- The driver's insurance details if you have them.
What if I don't claim?
Still tell your insurer about the accident, because the other driver may try to make a claim without you knowing. You may choose not to claim:
- To keep your no claims discount intact, if you don't have a 'protected no claims discount'.
- If you decide to pay for the repairs yourself.