Unfortunately, car crashes and collisions are common occurrences, with more cases being reported than ever before. Despite them being common, many of us aren’t prepared and may not know what to do after a car accident. Knowing what to do in an accident can help you keep calm and take the necessary steps.
This guide provides a step-by-step plan on what to do after a car accident, when to do it, and what information you should collect to pursue a successful personal injury claim. When panic and shock set in, having a clear plan can help you remain composed and deal with the unfortunate situation in the best way possible.
What are the first steps to take after a car accident?
Here are the important steps you should follow if you’re involved in a car accident:
- Stop – according to section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, you must stop your car at the site of the accident. If it’s unsafe to do so or the car isn’t too damaged, stop at the nearest safe place.
- Assess for injuries – check yourself and everyone in your vehicle for injuries. Then check on the individuals in the other car and any pedestrians or bystanders involved. Contact an ambulance if needed.
- Contact the necessary emergency services – call the police on 999 for an emergency or 101 (depending on the situation).
- Collect necessary details – by law, you must swap details with the drivers of the other vehicles involved in the accident. This information includes names, addresses, insurance details, and car registration numbers. Failure to do so is a violation of the law and a criminal offence. Furthermore, this information is needed by your insurance company should you or another party make a claim. You should also consider jotting down or taking a picture of the driver’s license information and the registration plate, model & make of all cars involved.
- Gather evidence from the scene – collect other information, such as the date and time of the accident, weather conditions, driving conditions, malfunction of traffic lights or other traffic conditions, etc. This information can help support your personal injury compensation claim.
- Don’t admit fault – even if you think you were partly to blame for the accident, it’s best not to say anything at the scene. This can be used against you later if claims are made. Gather contact details and statements from any witnesses that may be present. Police and insurers use detailed information (such as the information listed above) about the accident scene to determine liability.
- Inform your insurance company – while the events of the accident are still fresh in your memory, contact your insurers with the details. Provide all the information you have about the accident. Your insurance company will then take the necessary steps on your behalf, should you wish to make a claim, or they can arrange for your vehicle to be repaired, if possible.
When should I call the police after a car accident?
You should call the police immediately after a car accident if:
- The other vehicle or vehicles don’t stop, drive off, or don’t exchange details
- You suspect the other driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You feel the other driver may have caused the collision intentionally, such as a crash for cash scam
Otherwise, anyone involved in an accident should inform the police within 24 hours if someone was injured, or if the drivers did not exchange personal details.
What details should I record if I’m involved in a car accident?
If you’re involved in a car accident, you should try to make a record of the following details, either at the scene of the accident or soon afterwards:
- The name, insurance details and contact information for the driver of the car, van, motorbike or other vehicle involved in the accident.
- Details about the other car or vehicle involved in the accident, such as the colour, model, make, and number plates. Taking some photos can be more effective and prevent any mistakes when writing down details.
- The date and time of the accident
- Any conditions that could have affected your driving skills, such as the weather, road conditions, lighting in that particular area, poor visibility, road signage, etc.
- Make notes about the damage to your car, such as cracked windscreen on the top left corner, damaged bumper, etc. Again, take pictures if possible.
- Detailed report of injuries to the driver, passengers, or bystanders as a result of the accident.
- Contact details of any witnesses present at the scene of the accident.
- Visual evidence makes a lasting and more accurate impression of what happened. Always take photos or videos of the cars, positions, and surroundings of the accident.
If you have bumped into a parked car on private property or in a parking bay, the owner of the vehicle might not be present. However, it’s still in your best interest to leave a note in a visible place with your details (possibly take a photo of that as proof too). Failure to leave your details is a criminal offence and could land you in trouble with the law.
What should I do if the other driver didn’t stop?
Naturally, a lot of panic sets in when an accident occurs, and it can be difficult to think clearly through the mental fog. The shock and disbelief can be all too much at times, and this may cause drivers to drive off.
As much as there’s going on, it’s important to keep your wits and follow the law. Driving off or not stopping is a criminal offence. In most cases, the only reason a person will drive off is if they are either guilty, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or they don’t have insurance.
If you find yourself in this position, you should stop the car or pull over in a safe place and then call the police immediately. This is now deemed a hit and run accident. You should continue with the usual steps to gather your proof, such as taking photos or asking for the contact details of any eyewitnesses. Once you are out of harm’s way, remember to inform your insurers of the incident.
If the hit and run driver cannot be located or was driving without insurance, you can still make a car accident claim for any injuries you’ve sustained. The difference here is that your claim would be made through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
What should I do if I hit an animal?
According to The Road Traffic Act 1988, if you hit any of the animals listed below, it must be reported to the police;
Again, failure to report this accident is a criminal offence.
If you hit a dog while driving a car, you should take the following steps:
- Stop your car and pull over to a safe place as soon as possible. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Look around to see if the owner of the dog is in the area. They will likely be distraught if they are, so keeping as calm as possible is important.
- If the owner is not there, check if the dog is still alive and if it is safe to approach. If it is unsafe to approach, call the police and report the accident.
- If it is safe to approach the dog, try to move it to a safe area away from the road. Use caution when handling the dog, as it may be injured or in pain. When dogs are distressed, they can lash out, so be careful not to suffer a dog bite.
- Assess the dog’s injuries and try to keep it warm and calm. Use a blanket or coat to cover the dog and keep it warm, if necessary.
- If the dog has a collar with identification tags, try to contact the owner. You can call the phone number on the tag or take the dog to the nearest vets, where they can scan for a microchip.
- If the owner cannot be located or the dog is severely injured or unresponsive, contact the police immediately.
- Report the accident to the police within 24 hours, even if the dog was not injured. You can call 101 to report the accident.
- If the accident caused damage to your vehicle, you should also report it to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Remember, hitting a dog is a traumatic experience for the dog, the owner and the driver. It is vital to remain calm, follow these steps and seek help if needed.
If you are involved in a car accident with one of the larger animals listed above, such as a cow or horse, you should call the police immediately. If the animal is in distress or appears to be seriously injured, you could also call the RSPCA’s emergency helpline on 0300 1234 999.
When should you contact your insurer after a car accident?
You should contact your insurance company whenever you are involved in a car accident. A good rule of thumb is to report the incident to your insurer within 24 hours to ensure you are covered.
Also note that all accidents must be reported to your insurance company, even minor ones. The accident can affect the functionality of your vehicle, even if it doesn’t seem to do so immediately. If you realise over time that your car has suffered some damage and needs to be repaired following an accident, your claim could be declined if the accident wasn’t reported to your insurer.
What information will my insurer need about an accident?
Your insurance company will need the following to grant repair claims or claims from other parties involved;
- The information you have collected from the other driver (name, address, registration number)
- The evidence you have recorded at the scene (photographs, details about the vehicle, weather and road conditions, etc.)
- If the police are notified, your insurance company may request the police report as well to confirm the events and details of the accident.
- Claim handlers will build up a case to visualise the scene, so provide all pictures, videos, eyewitness statements, or CCTV footage that you’ve managed to collect. The evidence may play in your favour to determine liability.
Good to note – eyewitness accounts are not always used by your insurer, and they may be heavily scrutinised for their authenticity. However, their contact information may help you in case of disputes.
Keep calm with a contingency plan
Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience. However, following the steps outlined in this guide, you can stay calm and take control of the situation.
Remember to stop at the scene, assess for injuries, call emergency services, collect necessary details, gather evidence, and inform your insurer. Doing so can help ensure the safety of all involved and protect your legal rights.
You won’t be able to undo the damage of a car accident, but you can limit the damage financially. If you have sustained injuries following a car crash, personal injury compensation will also go a long way to help you get your life back on track.