What to do after a car accident?

By: Lisa Harper

It’s something none of us really want to think about, however, the reality is there is quite a high chance of being involved in a car accident at some point. So if you do find yourself in this unfortunate position, it can help to be aware of what you need to do after a car accident. 

What to do if you have a car accident? A brief overview

In the event you are involved in an accident here’s a quick rundown of the steps you should take:

1.    Stop your car as soon as it is safe to do so

2.    Switch off your engine

3.    Turn on your hazard lights

4.    Check yourself and any passengers for injury

5.    Check to make sure that anyone else involved is ok: 

-    If anyone is injured, the road is blocked or your suspect any form of foul play dial 999 or use an SOS phone to get the appropriate emergency services involved.

-    If everyone is ok, make sure everyone is out of the vehicle and safe before exchanging details. Remember to report the incident to the police by phoning non-emergency 101 number within 24 hours. 

What to do after a car accident in more detail?

Stop – However minor you believe the incident to be you should stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Failing to stop is an offence under Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and can result in a maximum penalty of a six-month imprisonment and a fine. 

Once you have stopped, you should turn your engine off and turn your hazards on. 

Check yourself and passengers for injury – It is important to make sure you, any passengers and anyone else involved is ok. 

If everyone is ok, you should get them out of the car (this includes any pets) and in a safe location while you swap details with anyone else involved. If you have reflective vests or jackets, you and your passengers should put them on to make yourselves more visible.

If anyone is injured or stuck in yours or any other vehicle involved, you should call the emergency services on 999.

If the accident occurs on the motorway, you should try to pull onto the hard shoulder. Everyone should get out of the car and stand behind the barrier. If there are pets in the car, you should leave them there unless it is an emergency situation, in which case you should remove them but make sure they are kept under control.

Swap details – In the lucky event that no one is hurt, the next step is to swap details with anyone involved. You are obliged to give your name and address to anyone involved, so even if there is no one there to physically pass details to, you should make a note and leave it on their windscreen. 

If no one is hurt, you have no obligation to give your car insurance details at this point, however, if you do give them, it can help to speed up the claims process.

Make notes of the accident – It can be hard to remember things or make sense of them straight after the accident, so it is a good idea to make a note of everything you remember. 

You can take pictures of the cars positioning, or make a sketch, if safe to do so, to help substantiate your version of events. 

If you have a dashcam fitted, the footage can be extremely helpful in establishing the facts.

Do you need to call the police after a car accident?

In short yes, you must report a car accident to a police constable or station within 24hours. If it is a minor car accident, you should call the non-emergency 101 number to report the accident. 

If it is a more serious accident, someone is seriously injured, the road is blocked, you believe drink or drugs may be involved, or you think the accident may have been deliberate, you should contact the emergency services using 999. 

You should also call 999 if someone involved in the car accident fails to stop.

What to do in a car accident that is your fault?

If you believe that you caused the car accident, you should still follow the above procedures. You should always stop, as not doing so would be far more detrimental to you in the long run.

However, when you do stop it is advisable not to admit blame or apologise. You may feel an obligation to say sorry, but, you are not acting in your best interests doing so. 

While you may suspect you were to blame, this may be far from the case. However, if at the scene of the accident you verbally admit fault then it may be used against you when making a claim and may even invalidate your claim. 

Therefore, it is best to stay calm and just collect as much information about the accident as you can and then report any information gathered to your insurance company and the police. 

If after investigation the insurance company deem you were at fault, you may lose your no claims discount (if not protected) and your premiums may go up when your car insurance is up for renewal.

What to do in a car accident that isn’t your fault?

If you don’t believe you were the cause of the car accident, it is important you try and ascertain the facts from anyone else involved as calmly as possible. Pointing the figure and blaming other drivers can just intensify an already fraught situation. It is best to co-operate and then pass any information onto your car insurance company and the police, so they can establish who is at fault.

If another driver admits fault, then it is often fairly simple to claim for a hire car and repairs through their insurance. However, if they do not admit fault straight away, it may be necessary to claim from your own insurance and pay your excess. Any excess you pay can usually be claimed back from the other driver’s insurance company if they are found to be at fault. 

Making an insurance claim after a car accident

You should contact your car insurance as soon as possible after the event, even if you don’t need, or intend to make a claim. You should try to give them as much information as possible about the accident, including the name, address and insurance details of any third party involved. 

You can help back up your interpretation of events using sketches or photos. You should answer any questions asked by the insurance company truthfully and to the best of your knowledge, as lying to your car insurance company is against the law.

The car insurance company will then manage the claim, liaising with any third party insurance companies to establish who was at fault and how to proceed. If the car insurance company rules that you were to blame, but you don't agree, you can challenge the decision. However, to do so you will usually need to provide supplementary evidence to support your claim.

What will happen to your car after a car accident?

What happens to your car after an accident, really depends on the severity of the damage it sustains. If the car can be driven away, the car insurance company may request you take it to several garages to get quotes before they decide where you can get it fixed. However, if it has to be recovered, it is best to get it towed to a garage approved by your insurance company so that any work will be covered without any hassle. 

If the damage is substantial, the insurance company may decide that the car is not worth the repair costs and write the car off. In this case, you will be offered the market value of the car at the time of the accident. Sometimes this may be less than the outstanding finance on the car and is where gap insurance can offer you an extra layer of protection.

Having a car accident can be an extremely stressful time and even if you are not visibly injured you can suffer from the shock. Therefore it is important to remember is to stay calm, stop when safe to do so, make sure everyone is ok and co-operate with anyone else involved.

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