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How and when to report a car accident

This guide explains how long you have to report a car accident to your insurer, when you need to inform the police and the steps to take if you want to make a compensation claim.

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How long do you have to report a car accident?

If you were involved in a road traffic accident, you might wonder what you should do next. As a general rule, if anyone was injured or there was damage to a vehicle or other property, you should report it to your insurer as soon as possible. In some cases, such as if there was a driving offence or you were unable to exchange details with others at the scene, you must also report it to the police within 24 hours.

Failing to report an accident could have severe repercussions and be considered a criminal offence. You may also lose your insurance benefits, such as no claims discount. Furthermore, a timely report of a road accident is essential if you decide to make a compensation claim for any resulting injuries or if another party decides to start a claim against you.

To learn more about how to report a car accident and how long you have to report it, please continue reading this guide. You can also call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back for a free consultation with a friendly legal adviser.

What should I do following a car crash?

If you are involved in a car accident, the law requires you to stop as soon as it is safe to do so. If the vehicle is still drivable, you should find a safe space to pull over, switch off the engine, take the keys from the ignition, and switch on the hazard lights. Afterwards, you should take the following steps:

  • Check if you or anyone else involved in the accident is injured. If anyone is seriously harmed, call 999;
  • If it is safe to do so, leave the vehicle and move to a secure location off the road;
  • Exchange details with the third party. These should include names, contact details, addresses, vehicle registration and insurance details;
  • Try to remain calm and document the accident. Note the date, time, and location of the incident, as well as the weather, road conditions, and other relevant details. If it is safe to do so, take photographs or videos of the accident scene from every angle before anything is moved or tampered with.
  • Make a note of any injuries suffered by others involved in the accident, which will be helpful if the other side decides to start a claim against you;
  • Do not admit any fault or apologise for the accident at this stage, as this could be used against you if you decide to make a road traffic accident claim;
  • No matter how minor the damage is, notify your insurance company about the incident within the time limit specified by your insurance policy (this is usually 24 hours);
  • In certain situations, which will be described in more detail in the sections below, you must also inform the police about the accident within 24 hours.

What details should I exchange with the other party?

If you were involved in an accident with another vehicle and this has resulted in damage or injury, you must remain at the scene and exchange the following details with the third party:

  • Your names, phone numbers, and addresses;
  • The registration numbers of all the vehicles involved in the collision;
  • The owner’s contact details if the vehicle you are driving belongs to someone else;
  • You should also exchange your insurance information, such as the name of your insurance company, policy numbers, and contact details.

While you are not legally bound to share your car insurance details if nobody has been injured, this can help speed up a future compensation claim, so it is always worthwhile. Some injuries, such as whiplash or damage to internal organs, may not always be immediately apparent.

When should I call 999?

Usually, it is not necessary to call 999 following a car accident in the UK. However, you should call the emergency services if you need immediate help, such as:

  • Someone has been seriously injured
  • You were involved in a hit-and-run accident
  • If the road is blocked by debris or the vehicles involved in the collision
  • You believe the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • If the other party does not have a valid driver’s license
  • You suspect the other driver has been deliberately reckless
  • If anyone at the accident scene is being aggressive or threatening

If you do not need immediate help, you can call 101 instead or just exchange details with the other driver if nobody was injured.

How long to report a car accident to the police?

Reporting a car accident to the police is not always necessary. If you have stopped and exchanged details with the other party and nobody was injured, you do not need to report the incident to the authorities. However, you must inform the police if:

  • Anyone has been seriously injured, including animals such as dogs or horses;
  • You were unable to exchange details at the accident scene;
  • You believe a driving offence has been committed, such as driving under the influence or deliberately causing a collision.

In such circumstances, the incident must be reported to the police within 24 hours.

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurer?

Many people wonder, ‘How long do you have to report a car accident to your insurer?’ following a road traffic incident. This may depend on your insurance policy, but most insurers require that you report all accidents, no matter how minor, within 24 hours.

You must report the accident to your insurance company regardless of whether you plan to make a claim or not. That is because the other party may decide to start a compensation claim against you without you knowing. If you fail to inform your insurance provider, they might invalidate your insurance policy and refuse to cover any damages you have inflicted on the other party.

What happens if I fail to report a car accident?

If you fail to report a car accident to your insurance company, your policy may be cancelled for non-disclosure, and your coverage may no longer be valid. This means that if the other party decides to make a personal injury claim against you, your insurance will no longer cover any resulting damages, and you will be left out of pocket if the other side wins compensation.

Furthermore, a cancelled insurance policy will permanently stay on your record. You may find it harder to get insured in the future, as some insurance companies may refuse to insure you, or you may be charged a significantly higher premium. Thus, not reporting a car accident to your insurer is not worth it, even if your insurance may go up next year.

If you fail to inform the police (when necessary) within 24 hours of the accident, possible repercussions could include:

  • A hefty fine
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Penalty points on your license
  • Being disqualified from driving

Can I start a personal injury claim following a car accident?

All road users have a legal duty to adhere to the regulations found in the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Highway Code to minimise the risk of causing harm to themselves and others on the road. If you’re involved in an accident, an experienced solicitor can help you make a compensation claim if you can prove the following:

  • Another road user owed you a duty of care
  • They breached their duty by acting carelessly or negligently
  • Their actions caused a road accident
  • You suffered an injury as a result

Your solicitor will have the necessary expertise to prove a duty of care and negligence. Once liability is established, they will help you gather the evidence required to make your claim and inform the defendant about your intentions.

It is essential to mention that you can claim compensation even if you were partially at fault for your injuries, such as if you were not wearing a seatbelt (but your payment may be reduced accordingly). You can also start a claim on behalf of a loved one if they are a child under 18 or have suffered a severe injury and cannot deal with legal proceedings.

What evidence do I need to make a car accident claim?

The evidence needed to support a car accident compensation claim may include:

  • Photographs of the accident scene taken from multiple angles and of any visible injuries that you have suffered;
  • Pictures taken during your recovery process;
  • If available, dash cam or CCTV footage of the accident can provide a clear and unbiased view of what happened;
  • Statements from witnesses to the accident can help corroborate your version of the events;
  • A copy of a police report filed at the accident scene;
  • Your detailed account of the accident, which could include its date, time, location, and the conditions at the time, such as weather, traffic, quality of the road, and other relevant details;
  • Your medical records will help prove the type and severity of the injuries you sustained and the treatments you received;
  • A medical report from a medical expert regarding any long-term effects of your injuries and your future care needs;
  • A journal of your recovery process, detailing the pain and suffering you endured and how the injuries have affected your daily life;
  • You also need to present evidence of all the financial losses and expenses you incurred as a result in the form of receipts, invoices, or other financial documents.

Is reporting a car accident crucial for a personal injury claim?

Whether or not you plan on making a personal injury claim, you must tell your insurance company that you were involved in an accident, even if it seems minor. If anyone was injured, you must also report it to the police within 24 hours. Failing to do so may result in fines, penalties, or even criminal charges and may invalidate a possible personal injury compensation claim.

On the other hand, timely reporting of your accident may be very beneficial to your claim for several reasons:

  • The sooner you report it, the easier it is to collect evidence such as CCTV footage and witness reports;
  • It allows your insurance company to start investigations swiftly, which can lead to a faster resolution should you decide to pursue a claim;
  • The details of the incident will be fresh in your mind, ensuring a more accurate account of the events.

To sum up, reporting a car accident is essential for a successful personal injury claim. This will ensure compliance with the law, help establish liability, and preserve crucial evidence to secure compensation for your injuries.

What happens if the other driver does not have insurance?

If you were involved in an accident with another driver who does not have insurance or did not stop to exchange details, you may still be able to make a claim. In such cases, a claim can be pursued through the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB).

The MIB is a crucial safety net that helps people injured by uninsured drivers to cover medical expenses, property damage, and other losses incurred due to the accident. As a non-profit organisation, the MIB is indirectly funded through the premiums paid by every motorist who has a valid insurance policy in place.

To be able to claim, you must inform the police of the incident. If the police fail to identify the culprit, the MIB will investigate the circumstances of the accident and award you the compensation you deserve if there is sufficient proof that you were not at fault.

What is the time limit to start a car accident claim?

The time limit to make a car accident claim is typically three years under the Limitation Act 1980. After three years, your case will be time-barred and no longer valid. However, the sooner you seek legal advice, the easier it will be to gather the necessary evidence and build a solid claim to secure compensation.

Several exceptions may apply to your claim:

  • If a child is injured, a parent or legal guardian can make a claim on their behalf at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. Afterwards, they have until turning 21 to start a claim themselves.
  • The time limit is put on hold if you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury and cannot handle a case. In this case, a litigation friend could claim on your behalf at any time.
  • The time limit is also suspended if the injured party suffers from a condition such as PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or a similar condition.
  • If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you can claim compensation within three years after they passed away.

To learn more about how long you have to report a car accident and how you can start a compensation claim, do not hesitate to call 0800 678 1410 or request a free consultation with a legal adviser by entering your details into our contact form.

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Last edited on 17th Jul 2024

With over 15 years in the legal industry, Nicholas Tate has a wealth of knowledge and experience covering all types of personal injury and clinical negligence claims.