No one wants to be involved in a car accident, but it’s essential that you are aware of what to do if you are in one, especially as shock can set in that can easily make you forgetful if you panic.
Taking the right steps after a car accident can stop a bad situation from becoming worse.
No matter how small the incident, you must stop. Failing to do so can mean you are committing a criminal offence.
Switch off your engine and turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers.
2. Get to a Safe Place
If you are on a motorway:
In the nearside lane closest to the hard shoulder – try to manoeuvre your car onto the hard shoulder. If your car won’t move, leave the car by whichever door is closest to the hard shoulder and get to a safe place.
In a centre lane with moving lanes of traffic either side – stay in your car if possible (with your hazard lights on). Only attempt to move to the hard shoulder or central reservation if traffic is stationary.
In the outside overtaking lane – leave your car by the door nearest the reservation and climb over the barrier, if possible. Position yourself to the front of your vehicle, and do not attempt to cross the carriageway while traffic is moving.
3. Exchange Details
This might be the last thing on your mind, but it’s the law and can help protect you further down the line.
Exchange names, addresses, and contact details with anyone else involved in the accident, including other drivers, owners of damaged property, and any witnesses.
If you have damaged a parked car, leave your details on the windscreen. You must also exchange registration numbers, and get the details of the registered keeper of the vehicle if different from the driver.
Avoid saying sorry or accepting blame for the accident until you know precisely what happened, as it could count against you later on.
Call 999 straight away if someone leaves the scene of the car accident without giving their details.
4. Call Emergency Services
If anyone has been injured, you should call an ambulance and the police as soon as possible. Don’t move injured people from their vehicles unless there is a danger of fire or explosion, and don’t remove a motorcyclist’s helmet unless it’s absolutely essential.
If there are no injuries, but the accident is blocking the road, you should call the police. The police should also be called if the situation is escalating and another party displays angry or aggressive behaviour, or if you feel there was foul play (such as a “crash for cash” scam). Never hand over cash at the roadside following an accident.
If the police don’t come out to the scene of the accident, you should go to a police station to report the accident within 24 hours.
5. Note the Details
As soon as you can, write down a detailed description of what happened. Collect as much information as possible, and where you can, take photographs. Make a note of the:
Time, date, and exact location of the accident
A rough sketch of the positions of the vehicles after the accident
Weather and traffic conditions, including anything unusual you notice about the road or lighting
Road markings, signs, and signals, or their absence
A list of damage to vehicles and a description of any injuries sustained by pedestrians, drivers, and passengers
Vehicles involved (make, model, registration number, colour, condition, estimated speed, direction of travel, use of lights or indicators, the number of passengers)
People involved (contact details of all drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and witnesses involved; description/distinguishing features of the other driver(s); names and badge numbers of any attending police officers)
Any cameras – CCTV, dash cams, mobile phones, etc. – which may have caught the incident on film.
6. Contact Your Insurer
Let your insurer know what’s happened as soon as you can. You should do this even if you don’t intend to claim, or you think the other driver involved isn’t going to claim. Failure to notify your insurer within the timeframe set out in your policy may invalidate your cover.
If you want to cover the cost of any repairs yourself, perhaps because you want to protect your no claims bonus, you still need to let your insurer know that you’ve been in an accident. If you don’t, and they find out you have, they may refuse to pay future claims.